When Alison Bechdel wrote, “Fun Home”, a graphic novel about her closeted gay father and her relationship with him, it was received with great aplomb. Critics loved it and so did the regular readers. I read it last month and was in absolute love with it. At the end of the book, I wondered, “What about Alison’s mother? What about her point of view and her life?” and the wonder was put to rest when I read her new book, “Are You My Mother?”
Are You My Mother speaks of the relationship Alison shared/s with her mother. Alison’s mother was everything rolled into one – an actor, musician, lover of books and also a woman unhappily married to a gay man. Alison’s childhood simmered under all of this – her father’s constant battle and her mother’s constant shirking away from her, so much so that she stopped touching or kissing her daughter good night ever since she was seven. There was this constant tension between her parents, which led to Alison’s history of obsessive compulsive disorders which she shares in the book.
The book in itself is funny and at so many places only heartbreaking. There are moments when Alison’s relationship with her mother are for all to see – how she did not get the attention she craved for, or the relationship defined by the complete and absolute lack of intimacy. At some places she provides answers and reasons and at the others she leaves it for the reader to figure it on his/her own.
Are you my Mother contains a lot of dream analysis as well – Freud has to jump in, when it is the bigger picture and through these dreams one can also understand how detail-oriented Bechdel is with reference to her life and relationships.
As a graphic novel, I loved the drawings as much as I did in Fun Home. The lines are clear and the colour is just what this book should have – in shades of grey and tinges of red. Alison’s book is not just about her mother – it is also about introspection of her life and the way she led it before writing Fun Home.
I loved the way this book was written. More so because I am biased to graphic novels. They speak a different language of words and pictures, which also conveys a lot, like a novel would. The past and present are beautifully juxtaposed and the good thing is that there is also a sense of empathy while reading the book. There is no pity or sympathy; however it is something one can relate to, without experiencing it at some level.
“Are you My Mother?” for me was a wonderful read this month. Family relationships are beautifully portrayed in this one and that too being a graphic novel, it manages to convey a lot. Bechdel’s mother remains an enigma in most places, but that doesn’t deter the book from being what it is – brilliant. Relationships are like a prism sometimes with way too many angles and perspectives. This is one of them – from a daughter to her mother.