Alison Bechdel's new graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?, confirms what anyone who has read Fun Home already knows: Bechdel is the premier master of graphic comic narrative. Having explored her father's secret gayness and suicide in her first memoir, this second volume takes on her sometimes chilly, smart and ambiguous mother--a poet who gave up her art for love, an actress and a housewife with three children.
As the reader jumps backward and forward in time, Bechdel relentlessly explores her relationship with her mother, peeling back the layers of the onion in a visually exhilarating manner. Her double-page spread of five old photographs of mother and child spread on a desktop is a mini-masterpiece of subtle emotional depths with a dramatic trajectory from first snapshot to last. She masterfully sets up a sequence where she hangs up on her mother and then breaks down crying, perfectly arranged graphically for maximum impact--you'll gasp at the expertly delineated pain.
On one level Are You My Mother? is a psychoanalytic plunge into the mystery of that intimate bond between mother and child. Each of the seven chapters begins with a hauntingly visualized dream sequence expressing one of Bechdel's anxieties or repressed emotions about her complex, elusive parent. She taps into the universality of the mother experience with extraordinary revelations, engaging the thoughtful reader with her insights, using comic book tools to take you to terrifying places. Together, Bechdel's memoirs form one of the most detailed, entertaining and harrowingly honest portraits of parents in gay literature. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle