book review: are you my mother?

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama is Alison Bechdel’s memoir about her relationship with her mother and her therapists and about writing Fun Home. Because it’s about writing the previous book and how much her mother didn’t like that she’d written it, but also about psychoanalysis, it feels more like a meta-book.

She writes and draws a lot about feeling self-conscious, and transcribes so many bits about writing memoir that it feels more like an essay than a story. Which isn’t a bad thing. It makes me want to read her sources.

One of the things I really like about both of Bechdel’s books is how she draws the pages from the things she’s reading. She draws the typewriter font and highlights the interesting text, but leaves the surrounding bits in there for context. She also has people’s letters and her drawings of photographs. This whole layer of drawing and selecting as construction fascinates the hell out of me.

I don’t think I found this one as compelling as Fun Home because the relationship between Bechdel and her mother is ongoing. It’s harder to make it all fit into a book. In any nonfiction you’re making arbitrary endpoints but it’s always easier when you’ve got something natural like a death to crystallize around. In Are You My Mother? there isn’t that one thing, which seems to make it a harder book to create. So in some ways the book becomes about how hard it is to make itself. Which some people might not enjoy, but I did.

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