Rating Scale: 4Q, 2P
Links to Author’s Website and Interviews
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Do daughters ever really understand their mothers?
Are You My Mother? is a comic drama that serves as a sequel of sorts of Bechdel’s Fun Home. While Fun Home focused on her relationship with her father, this one focuses on her mother. It’s a very non-linear story that goes back and forth between her childhood and early adult memories. It’s meta in that it talks about her mother’s negative reaction to Bechdel writing Fun Home and the difficulties she had with the relationship. Not only this, she also talks about her struggles in writing this particular book and her mother’s reaction to it. She also draws very heavily from the works of a psychoanalyst named Donald Winnicott and his work with children. Winnicott’s history and works are interspersed with her own memories and observations. A lot of the book is about Bechdel psychoanalyzing herself in therapy sessions.
Like Bechdel’s Fun Home, there are moments in this comic drama that are pure brilliance. She excels in scenes about her childhood and growing up with her mom. Their relationship is absolutely fascinating. It is interesting to see her mother’s reaction to Fun Home. Not only does it show that, it shows her talking with her mom about writing a memoir about her. Bechdel does an excellent job in describing how conflicted she felt about writing Are You My Mother? and Fun Home, and how they have affected Bechdel’s relationship with her mom. It’s very meta as it is essentially about the making of both books. There were some aspects, however, that I wasn;t crazy about. I thought she overdid it with the psychoanalyst plotline, especially the scenes with her therapists. It felt a little self-indulgent in that she was focusing so much on analyzing the tiniest things in her life. The connection to Winnicott was interesting but also felt a little overdone. Too much time was devoted to this aspect of the story. I would have preferred her to delve more into her literary allusions to Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich.
Significance of Book
Bechdel is an awarding-winning writer. This book features some of her best writing and drawing as she delves into the past to better understand her mother.
Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis
Wishing For Snow by Minrose Gwin
Awards and Lists
Library Journal Best Graphic Novels
New York Times Notable Books – Nonfiction: 2012
- Discuss Bechdel’s inclusion of Virginia Woolf and Adrianne Rich.
- Discuss the use of the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott
Justification of Selection
I’ve been interested in reading this book ever since I read Bechdel’s first graphic memoir, Fun Home, in college years ago. What really hooked me into reading this was the examination of the mother-daughter relationship.