Are You My Mother?
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Are You My Mother?

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  9,565 ratings  ·  1,542 reviews
From the best-selling author of Fun Home, Time magazine’s No. 1 Book of the Year, a brilliantly told graphic memoir of Alison Bechdel becoming the artist her mother wanted to be.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Houghton Mifflin (T) (first published 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Sam Quixote
I was a big fan of Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” when it came out 6 years ago, it was an interesting and insightful memoir about her growing up in a funeral home with a father who was secretly homosexual and would later commit suicide, and then discovering that she was gay as well. It was an excellent book that I would recommend to all comics fans but also readers in general, so I was looking forward to this follow-up, this time the focus supposedly being on her mother. What more revelations could...more
Gene
I'm a huge fan of Bechdel's previous graphic memoir, FUN HOME, which centers around her closeted father and the ornate family house where Bechdel grew up. I've read it several times, always moved and impressed by its narrative and visual power, and always finding new angles of interest with each reread. Her new graphic memoir, ARE YOU MY MOTHER?, ostensibly centers around her mother this go-around. And while it's brilliantly drawn and certainly an impressive psychological and intellectual achiev...more
Moira
Well. As an artist who grew up in a museum, as the daughter of a complicated and creative mother (hi, Mom!), and as a skeptical analysand, I found MUCH that spoke to me about Are You My Mother?. But I have a strong bias against works of art that are about how difficult it is to make works of art, so I can't wholeheartedly endorse this as I could (her previous graphic-novel-memoir) Fun Home.

...Upon further reflection, I have to add that I am in awe of Alison Bechdel's bravery. I spent no fewer th...more
Simon
To me, this book resembles the kind of modernism that forms, in the persona of Virginia Woolf, one of its central themes. It is like nothing so much as a densely contrapuntal twelve-tone composition. Fragments of themes weave in and out of each other, breaking off, reappearing in new contexts; the words and images often come apart, reproducing the sense of polyphony in the written medium. It is a formal tour de force.

The content is intensely interesting, functioning at both an emotional and a ce...more
MJ Nicholls
Once more Alison Bechdel knocks a stellar work out the park (after half a decade of torturous self-analysis) and repositions the suffering neurotic artist at the forefront of serious art. By turns frustrating and self-absorbed to such mindboggling depths of solipsistic screwdriver-in-the-head nuttiness, the novel slowly reveals itself as a complex rendition of mother-daughter psychodynamics, touching upon Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich and pioneering feminist psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott along...more
M—
Very introspective, even for a memoir. More about Alison's therapy sessions than about her relationship with her mother. I found myself more curious about her relationship with her father, which seemed traumatic and was mentioned quite a few times but not explored, but reviews of this book indicate that Alison wrote out that relationship in an earlier book.

Quite honestly I thought Alison whined a lot, which I know is an unfair statement to make. So much of the book is focused on her detailed the...more
jo
ETA i'm reading around in GR, checking other reviews of this book, and there are SO MANY that are SO GOOD and make points that are different from mine, or points that are similar to mine but say it better. great literature produces great responses!

************

this is the best memoir i have read. in fact, it is one of the best books i've ever read period. i tried to think of other books that would compare to it in beauty, creativity, intelligence, complexity, and depth, and i think i'm going to...more
Jessica
I'd strongly recommend Fun Home to pretty much everyone, but I wouldn't recommend Are You My Mother? to almost anyone, including my own mother, who I see on here tried to read this after loving Fun Home (which I gave her) but then apparently gave up in disgust. And I can totally guess why, as there's a lot in here that it's perfectly reasonable not to like.

That said, I fiercely loved this book and it made me cry and cry. Alison Bechdel is such a genius that I kind of just can't even deal with it...more
Marianne
Sat up reading this from 11:30 at night until 1:40 in the morning. So compelling I can't even really talk about it yet.

****

On reflection:
I was too affected by this book to talk directly about why it meant so much to me, but here's a thing I noticed: In Fun Home, the images are often very object-oriented (you frequently see what the character is looking at), while the words carry the lion's share of emotion and meaning. That still happens in this book, but more often the words are either distanc...more
David V
I finished "Fun Home" about a month ago and eagerly looked forward to the next installment of Alison Bechdel's memoirs. I could not have been more disappointed. The harshest criticism I can give is that it's just plain boring, filled with page after page of psychological pseudo-analysis and "remembered" dreams. I'm sure this book was cathartic for her to write, but it was not the least bit enjoyable to read.
Karen
It pains me to write a less than glowing review of a book by Alison Bechdel, since I have been such a huge fan for so long, and since DTWOF has provided such immense comfort for me during hard times in my life. It's also hard to criticize this book since it was so intensely personal -- but I actually think this was one of its main problems. This book seems to have been written for the sake of the writer, rather than the reader. The book was, strangely, a combination of being too personal and too...more
Teresa
I love the title of this book. First, because it evokes (thematically) a book of the same name that I loved as a kid. (We had the English-Spanish version, which made it even more fun.) Second, because it fits this book in more than one way, as the question can be asked with different intonations.

And while that children's book isn't mentioned in the text, A.A. Milne's The World of Pooh and Dr. Seuss's The Sleep Book are, and to great revelatory effect, esp with Bechdel's illustrations at these ju...more
Melody
Wow. I am having a hard time believing how much I disliked this book. The two stars are for the drawings, not the text. I found it recursive, uninteresting- no, stultifying, masturbatory and at heart fairly hollow. There are pages and pages of transcriptions from the writings of eminent Freudians, pages of Bechdel's therapy, and pages of the dreams of both Bechdel and eminent Freudians. Perhaps my own psychoanalysis would be interesting to me (though I doubt it)- someone else's surely is not.

De...more
James
This, unfortunately, is a disappointment. I suppose, when an author virtually invents a genre, lands on the bestseller list, and wins multiple awards, as Bechdel did with her "graphic memoir" Fun Home, she's set the bar pretty high. So perhaps it's not surprising that her "follow-up" book doesn't rate as well. The production values give this book "star treatment"--a foil stamp cover and a two-color interior (as with Fun Home)--indicating the publisher's expectations. As a tip to editors: when th...more
dara
If you don't have a hard-on for psychoanalysis, this meta-book is not for you. It's not for me; I know that now. I learned more about Freud, Winnicott, and Virginia Woolf than about the author, which is weird because at the same time reading this book is like being stuck in her mind during a binge of especially boring thoughts. The book looks pretty. I like the coloring. That's really the only compliment I can give it. If you liked this book, tell me why. I'm legitimately curious because I suspe...more
Moira Russell
Glad I stopped a few pages in and read Fun Home first - that not only provided context, but made this sequel a lot more palatable. All the psychoanalytic jargon sure got wearying after a while, even if the conclusion was moving - especially since Bechdel has the grace and maturity not only to see, but be thankful for, how her parents gave her the ability to survive and succeed the painfully limited family their lives created together. Le Guin's words could stand as an epigraph to this diptych: I...more
Nate Dorward
It took me a while to really get into this one: it's much more slippery than Fun Home in its structure, themes and concerns. The "meta" aspect bothered me initially as it starts out talking about Bechdel's difficulties with writer's block and fears about the reaction of her mother to Fun Home. But once the various threads get going, the complex musical play of ideas and themes is very rewarding: her mother then and now, often as an acerbic voice on the phone (a "voice-over" that counterpoints Be...more
tee
I wept a little as I read the first third of this book. I'd hesitantly started reading it, wary that it wouldn't live up to my grand expectations (my favourite authors have been letting me down lately). So when it hit the mark, it hit hard. I could relate to this book, which for me, because I'm a closet narcissist or something is terribly important. There were similarities between Bechdel's mother and mine that I recognised immediately, and funnily - those similarities became even more apparent...more
Lee
A self-consciously forced "meta-book" follow-up to Fun Home. Another in the growing list of books about writers trying and mostly failing to write books. Didn't really "cohere" for me. Instead of a literary side-commentary complement to the story of her father, in this she spins psych nuggets to assay her mah, although it's not really about her mother of course, and what's dredged up isn't juicy enough to activate voyeuristic impluses? "Never again psychology!" Kafka shouts in one of his diaries...more
Gregory Baird
"To be a subject is an act of aggression."

Well this hurts. I wanted to love this book so much. I adore Alison Bechdel. She's incredibly smart, witty, analytical, and heartbreakingly honest--all qualities that have made Fun Home, her first foray into graphic memoir, a modern classic. It's one of my favorite books, not to mention one of my most frequently recommended titles.

Fun Home, if you'll indulge me for a moment, is the story of Bechdel's relationship with her father and her coming out proces...more
oriana
Read for J&C basically the moment it came out. Floored but not decimated like I was with Fun Home. One day my life will slow down and I will have something more intelligent to say.

At least she is finally getting the attention she deserves.
Jude
I started reading this at Mac's Backs, also skipped around, and read it later after the Dotter humored my desire that it be a gift from her.

The reviews are intriguing- so much resistance and dismay at how different this is from the first volume of her memoirs. I don't feel the same impatience or disappointment- it didn't surprise me at all that the volume about her father was warmer and had a more compelling narrative form- her father was warm and his life is over.
Yes i finally know what meta me...more
Faith
Fans of Fun Home may be disappointed by this sequel, fans of Dykes to Watch Out For may be disappointed, fans of memoir may be disappointed, but no one who has/had a narcissistic mother will be disappointed. Bechdel is the best, bravest, most honest lesbian writer working today, and this book is brilliant.

Read and heartily recommended by the Corvallis Lesbian Book Group here on Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Ciara
holy moly! this book was TERRIBLE. i really enjoyed fun home & was looking forward to are you my mother? so much that i almost bought a copy instead of waiting for it to come in at the library. this is a big deal because i almost never buy books. & when i do, they're usually used copies of books i've already read & loved. it's really unusual for me to buy a new book i haven't read yet.

i'm so relieved i resisted the impulse though because this is one of the worst books i've read so fa...more
Su
Not enough about Bechdel's mother. Way too many "meaningful" dream sequences. Cringeworthy therapy sessions. Much more static art than we're used to from Bechdel, who normally puts enormous effort and detail into interesting perspectives--too many nearly-identical panels of her sitting across from her nearly-identical therapists, or sitting at her desk writing. Way way way too many panels that are long blocks of text from works on psychoanalysis, or Virginia Woolf, or nearly-illegible letters fr...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 27, 2013 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: PW 4/16/12
This was a very meta-memoir, as self-defined by the author and her mother in the end. Alison traces her memories of and relationship with her mother alongside threads of dream interpretation, therapy and psychoanalysis, and the writings of Virginia Woolf. Clearly, analysis has formulated her way of thinking, and it was actually a little frightening to see her frame absolutely everything with the ideas of a few key thinkers - Freud, Winnicott, and Alice Miller. I guess at the back of my mind I wa...more
christa
The worst part about waiting for the artist beyond your favorite graphic memoir to make her magic again is, unfortunately, reading the new release when it finally happens.

So. I didn’t like “Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama” by Alison Bechdel. This comes after loving, seriously loving “Fun Home” so much that I can’t stand that idea that I would never again read it for the first time. For me it was, and still is, the gold standard and the perfect 10. It stands alone as a novel; It stands alone as...more
Monica
I love Bechdel, and I love her commitment to the graphic memoir. Are You My Mother manages to feel much more personal than Fun Home did. She removes so much of the arm's distance she used (to great effect) in that book and really wallows in herself here.

I can see how other readers (probably including Bechdel's own featured Mother) might might find that kind of self examination dull to read - but I thought it was fascinating. It also manages to feel much more honest than most of the memoirs comi...more
Sarah
She did it again! At first I wasn't sure--I just really have an aversion to Woolf. Then the lit focus was less Woolf-heavy and the realness was so real again and the pacing and arrangement were masterful and the illustrations were intense and perfect and I felt a cry feeling at the very end. I didn't cry, though. Fun Home wins on that one.


Earlier: So happy to have this companion to Fun Home in my chubby little hands!
First Second Books
This book was such an interesting contrast to Fun Home -- I felt like that was written from the perspective of kid-Alison, experiencing the relationship, while Are You My Mother? is all about the adult-looking-back-analysis (with actual psychological analysis woven in). This probably says something about how we look at our parents differently. . . .
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21982
Alison Bechdel is an American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, in 2006 she became a best-selling and critically acclaimed author with her graphic memoir Fun Home.
More about Alison Bechdel...
Fun Home The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For Dykes to Watch Out For More Dykes to Watch Out For New, Improved! Dykes to Watch Out For

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“In a narcissistic cathexis, you invest more energy into your ideas about another person than in the actual, objective, external person.

So the man who falls in love with beauty is quite different from the man who loves a girl and feels she is beautiful and can see what is beautiful about her.”
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“It's our very capacity for self-consciousness that makes us self-destructive!” 8 likes
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