Jan Priddy's Reviews > Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
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's review
May 20, 2012

it was amazing
Read in May, 2012

ARE YOU MY MOTHER? by Alison Bechdel (2012) is a "comic drama" graphic memoir. Bechdel's therapist calls her "adorable" which is pretty true, especially when I saw her in person. She's charming and funny and real. But she's also smart and her exploration of her own life, mind, and relationships—especially with her mother—is a far more compelling and provocative read than I expected. In my teens I was fascinated by psychiatry. Here it is all spread out and illustrated in words and pictures I can understand.

I wrote an entire blog post after attending her reading in Portland, and I think I could do another about how I re-related to my mother after reading this book. It was a very powerful tool and now I have to go reread To the Lighthouse, which I didn't love the way I did Mrs Dalloway, and now maybe I would love it more. In any event, the studies she references did not seem at first to relate to me at all and I did not expect to relate so personally to this book, but they do and I have.

Another reviewer mentioned how effectively the drawings communicated—like the text, they must be "read" and at her Portland reading a member of the audience prefaced her question with the comment that she had felt that she read the drawings as well as the words. Bechdel was delighted. This is a complete and intimate story.

Maybe because I am older, or because my mother is dead, or because... I don't know. I've read reviewers who admire Bechdel's courage and I do too. A few reviewers didn't like the book, and I can see that happening. You have to sort of already have gone halfway there and I think most of us do—either already have or will. Some books don't work for every age. Some books demand that you be ready for them. I was ready for this. I don't think I was ready for To the Lighthouse. My teenaged students call a book bad when they don't "get it." There are bad books, poorly written, maudlin, lacking insight, too in love with similes or lacking research. But there are also books that can impact you "like a suicide." This is one of those. I'm planning to reread.

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