James's Reviews > Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
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Oct 24, 12


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 the first chapter is all about how the author cannot write the book, that's a sign that the manuscript is not ready. Essentially, Bechdel attempts to make lightning strike twice by applying the same method of Fun Home to similar (if ultimately less interesting) subject matter; but without the compelling story of her father's tragic life and death, this book can't decide what it wants to be. At times it comes across as whiny--we see the aftermath of fame, we hear about money problems, we learn that the income from "Dykes to Watch Out For" dwindled, etc. The author appears to be imitating herself--we have the dual voices of the narrator and the characters running simultaneously in frames, the extended allusions to the masters of modern literature (in this case, Virginia Woolf.) Rather than proceed with this book as is, Bechdel (and her editors) would have been better advised to either push the methodology in a new direction, or hone the narrative to a focus that matched the previous book. Although her comic strip has been published in multiple volumes, I'd like to think of this as Bechdel's "sophomore" book, which as a category often do not measure up to the promise shown in debuts. And I'm still eager to see what this visionary can offer in her NEXT volume.
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Angel That is the thing. I was disappointed with this one, and yet, I would likely look forward to her next book.


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