About one and a half year ago I read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and was extremely pleased with the art style, the story and in general Bechdel’s courage to portray that part of her life. So when I found out about her other graphic novel Are You My Mother? I made it a priority to read it. I was not disappointed.
Whereas Fun Home mostly approached the topic of Bechdel’s father, his homosexuality, his suicide and in general his role as her father and the relationship as a result of that, Are You My Mother? works with – shocker – her mother, their relationship and her actions as a mother.
Bechdel relates her mother’s role in her upbringing to a lot of the psychology books which she has researched herself and to her therapy sessions with several different psychologists. It creates this effect of her psychonanalysing her own relationship to her mother and seems like she is successful and manages to finally understand it all. At times it even feels like she is discovering these things in the process of writing and drawing rather having it all laid out from the beginning, creating a more organic flow to the story, despite the massive jumps back and forth in time. I did not expect less of Bechdel, though, as her last graphic novel did the same.
What I personally did not expect was that I had realizations about my relationship with my own parents, as some of the psychology books she cited in the graphic novel had definitions and quotes that perfectly described situations I had had with my own mother. I think this is also one of the reasons that despite me being really into the use of literary references as a way of portraying her relationship with her father in Fun Home, I like this book more: Because even if it uses really advanced psychological terms and spending pages describing the background for the people behind these, I related a lot more to Bechdel’s view of and relationship to her mother in regards to my own parents.
This has become one of my favourite reads of the year, but also one of the most emotionally tasking for me. I wanted to read it all at once, but at the same time I felt like I had to put it down every so often in order to make myself breathe or I would end up having a crisis of my own. Regardless of your relationship to your mother, however, I would recommend you to check it out, as it also deals a lot with the topics of being queer, feeling lost in life and mental issues, while portraying in a minimalist and yet really emotive art style.