Book Review: “Are You My Mother” by Alison Bechdel

Posting my GoodReads review:
Alison Bechdel’s, Are You My Mother, embodies the best of what memoir writing is – reflective, stark, unapologetic. The graphic novel format loans itself to memory, dreams, and literal framing of the past.

This book will be compared to Fun Home, her first memoir. Fun Home was excellent and juxtaposed Bechdel’s coming out process with the realization that her father was a closeted gay man. In “Are You My Mother” Bechdel interleaves Freudian psychoanalysis (with an outstanding discussion of the work by Donald Winnicott,) the plight of the woman artist via exploration of Virginia Woolfe’s work (a Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse) with her own struggles with art, serial monogamy, and the relationship she has with her emotionally distant mother.

These two books are starkly different; the teal color of Fun Home and the maroon color of Are You My Mother are a tip off that each work is on a different part of an emotional spectrum. Are You My Mother is more personal, more interior, and has less narrative structure though it follows a loose chronology.

Some reviewers may find this work self-indulgent and an extreme exercise in naval-gazing. I found it to be unflinchingly open without alienating the reader. The artwork is beautiful and the scholarship on Winnicott and Woolfe enjoyable.

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