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Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama [Hardcover]

Alison Bechdel
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2012

Alison Bechdel's Fun Home was a literary phenomenon: 'an extraordinarily intimate account of family secrets that manages to be shocking, unsettling and life-affirming at the same time', as Sarah Walters wrote in the Guardian. The Times said it was 'incontestibly the graphic book of the year', while the Observer recently chose it as one of the ten best graphic novels ever published.

While Fun Home explored Bechdel's relationship with her father, a closeted homsexual, this new memoir is about her mother - a voracious reader, a music lover, a passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel's childhood... and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter goodnight, for ever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf.

It's a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott to one explosively illuminating Dr Seuss illustration, to Bechdel's own (serially monogamous) love life. And, finally, back to Mother - to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618982507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618982509
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.1 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 630,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Fun Home and Are You My Mother? are the kind of head-spinningly thoughtful and textured works that make you rejoice in the comic-book form." (Daily Telegraph)

"Are You My Mother? is a work of the most humane kind of genius, bravely going right to the heart of things: why we are who we are. It's also incredibly funny. And visually stunning. And page-turningly addictive. And heartbreaking." (Jonathan Safran Foer)

"As absorbing as it is graced with a deceptive lightness of touch, it is clever, brilliantly pieced together, and utterly unusual." (Robert Collins Sunday Times)

"One of the chief pleasures of this book is how the words and pictures collaborate to gesture at a territory that neither might reach alone." (Tim Martin Telegraph)

"Many of us are living out the unlived lives of our mothers. Alison Bechdel has written a graphic novel about this, sort of like a comic book by Virginia Woolf. You won't believe it until you read it - and you must!" (Gloria Steinem) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Book Description

An expansive, moving and captivating graphic memoir from 'one of the finest cartoonists at work today'. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so fun book 21 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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 there be? Not many as it turns out, and neither is the book particularly about Bechdel's mum.

The book gets off to an uneasy and rambling start with Bechdel bewailing a lack of clarity when writing this book. It begins with a kind of dream, then segues into the then-present (most of the mum-stuff in the "now" is set circa 2009) before going off on a tangent to Virginia Woolf and then back to her mum in the present. I waited for the book to settle down and expected Bechdel to begin telling her mother's story which she does, in part, in between scenes where she visits a series of therapists talking about her own neuroses, and talking - and quoting at length - psychoanalysts she's been reading.

This isn't really a memoir about her mum, it's only one part of the book. And if we were to look only at that, we wouldn't find much. Her mum went through spells of depression, and it can't have been easy married to a closet-homosexual with a horrible temper, but she just isn't as interesting a person to read about as Bechdel's dad was.

The rest of the book is mostly a mish-mash of anecdotes about psychology.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The book was a gift from my daughter. I waited till I could dedicate all the time the book needed. The clear images are as informative as the text, neatly dovetailed into the message and import. I grew up in the era of comic books but had to go to a friend's house to read hers, because they were frowned upon by my very literate mother. I enjoyed and felt I was part of the action of a good vibrant drawing. I have read since I was small and have always loved language. The drawings are just that, another language. I am very familiar with the writers she talks about and find that not only has she carried their discussions faithful to their meaning, she has rounded out their concepts by describing the impact of the ideas on her life. This is what books should be doing, bringing new ideas and experiences to our being. This book should be kept and dipped into periodically. A quick peruse through her earlier book leads me to say that she has refined the graphic art element to keen perfection. The threads of thought and themes interweave gracefully. I loved the medium as much as the invitation to be with her during the exploration. The sincerity is startling and refreshing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have fallen in love with Alison Bechdel. 26 Mar 2013
By Elena
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After reading Fun Home and The Essential Dykes to watch out for, I came to the conclusion that this artist is absolutely great.Adorable, sensitive, extremely smart and educated.You don't only read her graphic novels, you learn from them.Although Fun Home (about her dad) is more interesting than Are you my mother (about her mom), if you are interested in learning more about the artist and probably also about yourselves, you must read this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comic book psychotherapy 19 Jan 2013
By Emily - London VINE VOICE
I read this before Fun Home and have an inconsistent relationship with this book because it was what drew me into reading both Fun Home and almost the entire series of Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For. Its graphic presentation is fascinating. I sank into it when ill in bed. But it is obsessed with psychoanalysis and its language of parenting and child development, and self-obsessed.

This is her mother's story - complementing her father's story in Fun Home. And maybe her mother is obsessed with herself too. But we hear enough of her mother to realise that maybe she was being `good enough' coping with the emotional dessication of living with her father, managing three children, attempting to engage her own adult daughter at a full-on intellectual level. Her attempt to establish a basic distance from her daughter as a child, at a time when she herself was probably being neglected, is treated as a central abandonment - her mother stopping kissing her when she was seven. But maybe this is more a story of how spending a long time in therapy can make you very self-obsessed and less concerned with hearing the voice of the other.

We hear that it is difficult for her to impress her mother, but we do not hear enough that her mother may have had a point of view which from her perspective was valid. We do hear her finally accepting that her mother is incapable of giving her the kind of validation that she might want. Maybe that's life - and you cannot do everything to please your mother. I think her mother may have coped pretty well with having a book drawn about her - "At last, I have destroyed my mother, and she has survived my destruction.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars great
It is a great graphic novel! Very intense! Too bad I don't understand much of psychology because she talks and quotes about it a lot.
Published 1 month ago by C.G.C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly, both highly readable and deeply thought-provoking
Alison Bechdel considers a very big question: how much truth might there be in our dissatisfaction with our lives, the feeling that we are trapped in the 'wrong' place doing the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by John Public
4.0 out of 5 stars Gift
This book was purchased as a gift therefore not read by myself. I understand it provides as expected and therefore it is described accurately and offeres as expected.
Published 3 months ago by Janice Neale
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read!
The book arrived faster than I expected it to which was great. I recommend reading Bechdel's first novel, Fun Home, before sinking your teeth into this one!
Published 10 months ago by EMMA
5.0 out of 5 stars An ideal gift for an experienced councillor!
An ideal gift for an experienced councillor! Her second graphic 'novel' but a very interesting approach to discussing complex issues. Successful gift.
Published 15 months ago by magicsnaps
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome but heavy
The summary as written on line prepared one for this book. No great surprises. Enjoyable to read if this is your taste in literature
Published 18 months ago by pat neale
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
I have just completed my second reading of this book and it is even better than I remembered. Thank God for an author who does not patronise, dumb down, shy away from painful... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Dino Green
3.0 out of 5 stars Serious study of a daughter's relationship with her mother that fails...
'Are You My Mother?', which borrows its title from a Dr. Seuss book, is Alison Bechdel's second exploration of her family background, following on from the well-regarded 'Fun... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Paul Bowes
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime
Alison Bechdel is a genius.

I have everything she's created, including her Calenders and everything is brilliant, but this and her other award-winning graphic novel 'Fun... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Angelicano
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
May be others would enjoy this but I didn't. The cartoons are good though. This is more like a comic book.
Published 21 months ago by Counsellor
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