Monday, January 6, 2014

Are You My Mother? by the creator of the Bechdel test

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel:  I was curious about this one because I'd read Fun Home and wanted to know what an analysis between the author and her living mother would be like.  I have to admit that there wasn't much for me to identify with in this mother-daughter relationship.  I found myself engrossed because a friend of mine has a particularly fraught relationship with her mother, and I kept sensing echoes in this book.  I also like memoirs that stretch over a longer time period when history is an important element.  Seeing history through the lens of a person's life can be rewarding, especially when the memoir is a graphic novel because you really can see it. 

There were a lot of threads running through this book: literature, lesbian history, psychology, romantic relationships, memory,  family history, gender, the writing life, etc.  I loved how frequently her mother, literary analyst that she is, brought up the problems of focusing a piece of literature when there are too many pieces to it.  Overall, I feel the author did a decent job of tying the threads together.  I read it in one day, so my still mostly scattered mental state wouldn't make the story feel artificially fragmented, and I think that was beneficial.  Nothing blindsided me or tossed me out of the narrative, although at times the fragmented chronology (anchored to names, which are one of my weaknesses) did get the best of me.

It's a very different book from Fun Home, a very different relationship with a very different person.  (And I think that someone I once studied with made a brief appearance in it, which was really wild, to say the least.)  I do wonder if the order of reading would affect someone's opinion on which of the two books they think is "better."  Both of them were interesting, educational, and touching, so I consider reading them both to be a win for me.  (I would suggest that you at least take a look at the physical hardcover because I loved the symbolism on that one more than the paperback.)

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