The Millions

A Little in Love with Everyone: On Alison Bechdel

This is an excerpt from  A Little in Love with Everyone: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Homeby Genevieve Hudson, part of the …AFTERWORDS series from Fiction Advocate.  

1.
Before Alison Bechdel became an award-winning cartoonist, she was a tomboyish girl in a small Pennsylvania town with parents who had once hoped to be artists but had settled instead for jobs as high school English teachers. Her father also worked a part-time undertaker, running the family funeral business. Bechdel’s bestselling graphic memoir Fun Home (think funeral home, think carnival) is described as a “family tragicomic” on the front cover, but there is more tragedy than comedy at play. The memoir is an excavation of Bechdel’s childhood and adolescence as she comes out as a lesbian only to be told that her father is secretly gay. Just months after Bechdel reveals her orientation to her family, her father Bruce commits suicide—or rather, he is hit by a Sunbeam Bread truck in an incident that Bechdel believes he architected. Fun Home tells the tale of two different kinds of queer lives—the liberated, lesbian daughter and the closeted, bisexual father—as they orbit each other in the same domestic universe and become confronted with the secret they share. She is coming out; he is made to face, by his daughter’s coming out, an identity he’s kept sealed off from the world.

One of the things that draws me to  is its obsession with secrets. It is about the secrets we tell and the secrets we keep. From the outside, the Bechdels might have seemed regular enough—maybe a tad gothic, given their gig as funeral home directors— but  shows us that nothing in their family was as it seemed. Bruce’s violent outbursts, his dalliances with male high school students, and his bisexuality are hidden beneath a performance of domesticity that he acts out with theatrical precision until the day

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