Book Review: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alice Bechdel

Fun Home: A Family TragicomicFun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Published in 2006
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Meet Alison’s father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family’s Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter’s complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned “fun home,” as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift, graphic — and redemptive.

I first heard of Fun Home when I read an article about how it was on the summer reading list for incoming freshman at Duke University and a group of students were boycotting it. They said it was pornographic and that its homosexual themes violated their Christian moral beliefs. Learning a group is trying to ban or boycott a book is one sure way to get me interested in reading it.

Fun Home is Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of her life growing up. Fun home is what she and her brothers called the family-owned funeral home her dad ran. This was the first adult graphic novel I’ve read. (And by adult, I mean for grown-ups, NOT porn.) I was really surprised how drawn into it I was. I didn’t realize that characters could be so defined in the graphic format. I really felt for Alison, having to grow up with such distant, detached parents. Her pain and confusion over her father’s death jumps off the page.

The only way that Alison and her father relate to one another is through a mutual love of books and reading. Fun Home is peppered with literary references and comparisons that went completely over my head. Once again I’m pulling the “I was an accounting major so I didn’t read any classics in college card”. If you have, you may enjoy the references and Alison’s book will have even more meaning for you. However, I still liked this book a lot anyway.

There were a few nude drawings in this book, when Alison figures out she’s a lesbian and starts having relationships with women. However, Alison is a talented illustrator and they looked like works of art in my opinion. If the scenes had been described using words, they would have been much more graphic. I am applying Justice Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” test of obscenity and this ain’t it.

As far as the homosexual themes in the book goes, yes this is a memoir written by a lesbian about her relationship with her gay dad. It’s a gay book. But isn’t one of the great things about reading learning about people who are different than you? Reading helps one develop a deep sense of empathy. Maybe you might even learn that people you once thought were evil are not. Maybe that’s a scary thought for some people and they would rather live in their insulated bubbles. I’m glad I’m not one of those people. However, I should thank the students at Duke for alerting me to this book’s existence.

Put Fun Home on your list of challenged books that must be read!


  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    I thought this book was terrific even though Bechdel lost me a time or two with her literary references. She is one smart cookie.

  • rhapsodyinbooks

    I used to love her comic strip but was unaware she had this book. Thanks for highlighting it – can’t wait to find it and read it!

  • S.G. Wright

    You would think students of Duke would rise above boycotting it but I guess there’s a lot of fear against free speech & thought. Thx for alerting me to this title