Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 286 pages)
I planned on reading Are You My Mother? after I finished rereading Fun Home a few months ago. Where Fun Home focused on Bechdel’s father, this graphic novel centers around her relationship with her mother. The book isn’t quite what you would expect. Instead of simply looking at her relationship with her mother as one might in a typical memoir, Bechdel reflects on their relationship through the lens of psychotherapy. The drawings in this book show Bechdel in various therapy sessions and the book is regularly described as very meta. Are You My Mother? reflects back on the time when Bechdel was initially writing Fun Home and the concerns she had with how her mother would react to its publication, which then ties in to her concerns with how her mother will react to another book being written where she is the focus.
As with Fun Home there are a lot of references in Are You My Mother? that had me feeling a little out of the loop. Bechdel refers to the theories of psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott while also touching on people like Freud, Jung, and Virginia Woolf. I had to reread certain sections a few times to make sure I understood them properly. This also happened in Fun Home when Bechdel made some references to pieces of classic literature I hadn’t had the chance to read. The book is still accessible and it’s obvious the author is intelligent, it’s just not the type of graphic novel you should think you can just pick up and read in an hour. Bechdel is proof that comics aren’t a dumbed down or throwaway genre.
This book takes us through the author’s journey to understand her mother and how their relationship came to be the way it is.