Are You My Mother? Alison Bechdel
Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel (2012). You think it is easy to read a comic book? Think carefully. First there is a caption, then the bubbles, then the artwork. It takes longer than you think. Then there is Alison working the layers of her own mind and offering the ideas to you, oh reader. It is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. You have to hold several things at once, especially when reading Bechdel’s work. There are layers in the format and layers in the content. Fun Home: A Tragic Comic (2006) was lusciously literary, lots of lesbian history if you read the spins of the books stacked, and delved into Dad’s dangerous life as a married man, a teacher with a desire for young men. He had a penchant for extremely good taste in interior décor and a wife who endured and persevered in her own right. He died gardening, a possible (probable) suicide by bread truck. Alison finds the tragedy, irony and comedy in this memoir with Father.
In the memoir with Mother there are more strenuous lines to fathom—not the literary etude (a tap on the keyboard to Adrienne Rich) of Fun Home, a far deeper life line, more prescient to the living, resides in Are You My Mother? Bechdel offers the mother a life of her own without the blame and shame of the patriarchs breathing down her neck, the psychiatrists, dream therapists and analysts want the mother to bear the burden of historic and social pathological desires, perceptions skewed since Plato bashed women and threw us under the bus before the wheel was invented. Bechdel searches so minutely, suspends so much of her time in search of her mother’s mothering, that we are allowed to accept our own mothers for who they are. We get to put our mothers in context and allow them to be the survivors with idiosyncrasies and foibles, successes and faults. But whole for once, in their own selves. It is an extremely liberating memoir. For Alison, for mothers everywhere, for each of us who read it wondering—YOU, who are you Mother?