Are you my mother? by Alison Bechdel *****

are-you-my-mother

Reading dates: 04 – 18 October 2013

After the difficulty she must have experienced in writing her first graphic novel memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, the fact that Alison Bechdel goes back to explore her Oedipal relation to her mother is no less than a Sisyphean feat. The novel is heartbreaking, deep, yet vulnerable as, at the same time as her mother, she explores her own writing of Fun Home and her relation to D. W. Winnicott, Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich. Those are three writers I either don’t know very well or at all, and she made me explore their ideas in a more systematic way.

Alison’s mother, also a writer, tells her, once her book about her dad is published, that no good writing comes from an engagement with the self. Walt Whitman, her favourite poet, never wrote with ‘I’ and yet composed some of the most wonderful transcendental works. The gulf between her (do we ever get to know her name?) and Alison is unsurmountable. Winnocott’s list of why would a woman hate her baby, however, makes it more manageable. Mothers and daughters make for a complicated relation. If you are a daughter, or a mother of a daughter, I am sure you have your own comic drama to tell.

This graphic novel has a lot to it (in the references, in the drawings, also by Bechdel) and, in the personal, it is political and universal.