Friday, May 30, 2014

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

Are You My Mother? is many things, a graphic novel collage of visual and textual narratives. Its story incorporates disparate materials and subject matters in painting the picture of a mother-daughter relationship as well as the intricate mental process of planning, researching, and executing a book. It is a complex work that uses sequential art in novel ways, recording personal interactions,
therapy sessions,
and excerpts and quotations from diaries, letters, and authoritative texts as well as physical objects like photographs
to circle around and delineate the protagonist's family relations, emotions, and thought processes, as well as how this book came about. The art is polished and expert, often filled with emotion, tension, and personality. The narrative ranges from the familiar to the academic to the deeply personal and is extremely thought provoking. I do not know if I can say I enjoyed reading this book, but I can say that it was a challenging and rewarding experience. This book is certainly a masterful and complex work well worth reading and contemplating.

This book's author, Alison Bechdel, has been cartooning for decades. Her alt-comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which ran from 1987 until 2008, broke ground with its frank and human characters and sexual situations. Her first graphic novel, the memoir Fun Home, won the Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work as well as a host of other accolades listed here. She speaks more about her work on Are You My Mother? in this interview.

Reviews about this book I have read remarked on the great craft and art in this book, though some varied on the impact of its narrative delivery. Katie Roiphe in the New York Times wrote, "I haven’t encountered a book about being an artist, or about the punishing entanglements of mothers and daughters, as engaging, profound or original as this one in a long time." The Comic Journal's Ken Parille called it "a fascinating document of a mind at war with itself, yet at ease with the archival possibilities of comic books." Laura Miller offered a different view, stating that "there's a bit too much therapy in Are You My Mother?" and that "it may get at the same truths that art does, but the trip isn't nearly as much fun." The New York Times' Dwight Garner agreed, calling the book "funereal," "therapized and flat."

Are You My Mother? was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and they provide more information and links to reviews here.

And this is probably not necessary if you have been paying attention this far, but this book is full of adult themes and is not recommended for young readers.

No comments:

Post a Comment