“Are You My Mother”: A Memoir By Alison Bechdel

In Fun Home, graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel, who’s probably best known for her Dykes to Watch Out For cartoon series, wrote about her relationship with her closeted gay dad who eventually died of an apparent suicide. Time called it the best book of 2006. Now, her memoir Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama debuts.

Are You My Mother is Bechdel’s account of trying to cope with longstanding issues that pertain to her other parent.

From Publishers Weekly:

The story, which sketches more of the author’s professional and personal life outside of her family, is spiderwebbed with anxiety and self-consciousness (‘I was plagued…with a tendency to edit my thoughts before they even took shape’). There’s a doubling-back quality, mixed with therapeutic interludes that avoid self-indulgence and are studded with references to creative mentors like Virginia Woolf (another obsessive who yet took daring creative leaps), analyst Donald Winnicott, and Alice Miller.

Therapy figures largely in this memoir. Bechdel tells interviewer Heather McCormack (Library Journal):

Therapy fulfilled some primal need for recognition that I didn’t get from my mother. She was a great parent in very many ways, very capable and obviously a strong artistic role model. But she had a need for me to recognize her that left me unconnected to my own self and my own agency in the world.

I think many people who disdain therapy are afraid of their own agency. They’d rather remain subjected to the things that limit them—their compulsions and addictions, the grief they’re staving off, the expectations of their parents and society—than face real freedom, real liberation. I also think there are a fair amount of people who are just fine, who got enough provision as children and are just living their lives. But I think they’re in the minority.

Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:

Are You My Mother is a work of the most humane kind of genius, bravely going right to the heart of things: why we are who we are. It’s also incredibly funny. And visually stunning. And page-turningly addictive. And heartbreaking.

Are You My Mother comes out today.

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