Another One — or Two — Bite the Dust

WEEK SEVENTEEN

BOOKS REMAINING:  30

CURRENT BOOK:  Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

The Handmaid’s Tale had an open ending, just like I thought it would.  Can I call ’em, or what?  There is an interesting epilogue, but I won’t say too much about it.

Anyway, amidst still-to-begin renovation chaos involving changes to everything we already selected including the contractor and designer we were going to go with, attempting to squeeze double sinks into a space not configured for double sinks — with a cabinet that will still include drawers, and no end of head-butting between myself and the overly anxious husband who had to schedule an emergency appointment with his counselor, I read Fun Home over the last few days.

When I checked the book out from the library, I noted that it was a comic book — er, “graphic novel” — and was in the Youth section.  (No, I was never much for comic books).  It didn’t turn out to be as difficult to read as I expected, although it was perhaps a little TOO personal to really engage me.  However, given that love scenes and masturbation were depicted, I’m not sure this book belonged in the Youth section.  Notably, a couple of the other branches shelved Fun Home with adult books.  Bechdel felt some guilt over her father’s death, that her revelation to her family regarding her sexuality ultimately led her father to commit suicide over his own sexuality.

The novel focuses on Bechdel’s childhood and college years, and the death of her father when she was in college, which she believes may have been a suicide.  It also focuses on Bechdel’s realization that she is a lesbian and how her “coming out” prompted the disclosure of the family secret that her father had engaged in intimate relationships with young men.  While the same-sex community is making great strides especially within the last couple of years, the time frame in the novel was closer to 30 years ago when being gay was far from mainstream and AIDS was still an epidemic linked to homosexuals.

The title “Fun Home” seems to convey the eclectic collection of art objects her father amassed, the fact that it was attached a mortuary, and the dysfunction within Bechdel’s family.

One thing that drew my attention in this novel was gender stereotypes as they apply to gays or lesbians.  Bechdel’s father liked fine fabrics and frills and artistic things, but since an interest in these things was not acceptable for a man, he tried to encourage his daughter’s interest in them.  Conversely, Bechdel wanted nothing to do with “girly” things and liked to try on men’s clothes, coveted a shirt with French cuffs, and wanted her hair styled in a crew cut.  More stereotypically masculine, Bechdel favored function over aesthetics.  Although I don’t think it’s correct to apply the stereotypes of the effeminate gay or the butch lesbian to all gays or all lesbians, Bechdel and her father did fall within the stereotypes.

Overall, Fun Home was a unique glimpse into the mindset of a young woman who realized that both her family and she herself, were outside the norm.  And that is something I can relate to.

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