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Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  28,258 ratings  ·  3,331 reviews
A 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 actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered u
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Houghton Mifflin
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Malcolm The book is primarily about the mother/child relationship discussed through the work 20th-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, and his theories abo…moreThe book is primarily about the mother/child relationship discussed through the work 20th-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, and his theories about narcissistic cathexis, true and false self, destruction of the object, etc. For the set-up of the book's conflict, see page 23 where Bechdel says, "The thing is, I can't write this book until I get her out of my head. But the only way to get her out of my head is by writing the book! It's a paradox."

Throughout the story, the author and her mother share the same artistic temperament and drive. What the author mean's at the end when she says, "My mother has given me a way out" is that her mother's voice is no longer in her head. This is described best on the page before the final page when the author writes, "I can only speculate that there was a charge, an exchange, a mutual cathexis going on ... she could see my invisible wounds because they were hers, too." In other words, the author's mother gave her the destruction of the object that Winnicott talks about in his theory, which then allows the author to go forward to create art freely. (less)

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Sam Quixote
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Elyse  Walters
A new chlorine-resistant swimsuit? Is there such a thing? I think that means swimming in the buff- but what do I know?
Got your attention? Great,....this is one hell of a sophisticated - intellectual- and emotional graphic book.

Author Alison Bechdel is simply awesome--there is just no other way to say it... BOTH of HER BOOKS are PRICELESS....
She says: "My mother composed me, as I now compose her". This memoir is not 'all' about her mother... yet I loved how it felt so real how Alison was TRYING
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another absolutely spectacular entry into the graphic novel canon. But because its an attempt to emulate its brill predecessor, the glorious "Fun Home", & has less anchors or poetic ideas that pop up with artful disposition throughout this, a very unmerry meta effort-- it is a cranial deconstruction of prior psychoanalyses & (I suppose) less hearty than the ode to Bechdel's father-- it succeeds less than her true masterpiece. (To be fair: To top "Fun Home"? Simply impossible!)

PS Fun Home at the
Apr 19, 2014 rated it liked it
All books have a price of admission.

With some books, this price is so low, we never notice it. Maybe all it requires to read some things is very low-level literacy and a willingness to turn pages.

Other books require that more literacy. More vocabulary (or willingness to use a dictionary.)

Many books, (most notably literary or academic works) require that you have knowledge of certain things to get in the door, so to speak. Maybe you need to have read Kant. Maybe you need to speak Latin or Frenc
May 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
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.

May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Gene Hult
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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
Paul Bryant
This is a therapy memoir and at one point Alison’s therapist says

I have the sense that you were a very sweet kid. A wonderful kid, in fact! Because, as an adult… and this will probably embarrass you… you’re really adorable.

This took me aback, because for the previous 200 pages the Alison Bechdel presented here is anything but. She’s horribly self-obsessed, self-loathing, morose, envious, morbid and really a total glumbucket. She never cracks a smile. You wouldn't want this Alison as a friend.

May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sue by: Bridget Rawding
This has been a very interesting read, different from Fun Home, in my recollection, by Bechdel' s attempt to understand and relate understanding of her mother and their complex relationship through her self-education in (and personal experience of) psychoanalysis. There are dreams to be analyzed, comparison of their preferred authors ( Woolf for Alison, Plath for her mother). Memories from childhood, both overtly happy and appearing quite sad. And there are contemporaneous conversations, as moth ...more
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychoanalysis
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
Dec 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
I’m sorry but this book was not for me and i did not like it at all, it will be for professional deformation but it is only a neurotic concentrate of a relationship between mother and daughter.
At the end of this reading I asked myself... " but why did I read this book without a head and tail?"... there was nothing that captured a half smile or that was of any interest, full of tedious notions on various famous exponents of pedagogy and psychiatry.
A real embarrassment to me.😕 A comic drama!??? no
Dave Schaafsma
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is my second time through this book, which is a matching pair to Bechdel's Fun Home, which most (and I) recognize as a masterpiece. This, her mom book, bears some resemblance to Fun Home, her dad book, in that it is in part an autobiography, and very very carefully layered, entertwining its story of her mother with Bechdel's reading of other texts. Finally, it's not as much about her mother as it is about how your experience of one person is connected to your experience of other people and ...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
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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, especially with Bechdel's illustrations at t
David V
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Gretchen Rubin
I loved Bechdel's Fun Home, which focuses on her relationship with her father, so I couldn't wait to read this graphic novel, which focuses on her relationship with her mother. ...more
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 far this year.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Lee Klein
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics-i-own
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
Reread 3/10/20: Opinion is still the same as below.

Based on the reviews and reader comments I’ve seen here and elsewhere, Are You My Mother? is far less universally loved than its instant classic predecessor, Fun Home. It’s easy to understand why. I was actually on the fence early on with it myself: I even sort of wanted to shake Alison a little bit - you know, “Snap out of it!” She’s quite an erudite, cerebral person and apparently does tend to get trapped in the minutiae and angst of her head
Jennifer (aka EM)
May 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I felt like I was reading this slowly - although clearly not, as I finished in two-three days or so. And even tho' I was processing throughout and after each section, I still feel that I need another five reads to get all of what Bechdel is saying here.

Still. It's a tour de force which I'm sure I just read in one of the excellent reviews; either jo's; simon's; or moira's (and I'm sure there are many more).

It's rich, complex, brave, stunning in its scope and depth. Multi-layered, dense and diffi
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Sullivan Universi...: What is truth? 1 5 Jul 23, 2014 09:24AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: #121: Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel 1 1 Dec 28, 2013 09:12AM  

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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.

Articles featuring this book

"Behind all your stories is always your mother's story. Because hers is where yours begin." -Mitch Albom The bond...
55 likes · 25 comments
“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.”
“In this pause, I suddenly saw something very clearly.

Whatever it was I wanted from my mother was simply not there to be had. It was not her fault.

And it was therefore not my fault that I was unable to elicit it.”
More quotes…