Are You My Mother? (memoir)

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Are You My Mother?
Are You My Mother (Bechdel memoir).jpg
Author Alison Bechdel
Illustrator Alison Bechdel
Genre Graphic novel, memoir
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
May 1, 2012
Pages 289 pp.
ISBN 978-0-618-98250-9
OCLC 798732023
Preceded by Fun Home

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama is a graphic memoir written and illustrated by Alison Bechdel. The book is a companion piece to her earlier work, Fun Home. While Fun Home dealt with Bechdel's relationship with her father, Are You My Mother? is about her relationship with her mother. Bechdel interweaves memoir with psychoanalysis and exploration of various literary works, particularly Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.

Its title alludes to the children's picture book Are You My Mother?, written by P. D. Eastman.[1]

Synopsis[edit]

Are You My Mother? is composed of seven chapters, each introduced by a description of a dream that Bechdel had. The dream is then interpreted and explained in the context of various events in Bechdel's life, jumping backwards and forwards in time in doing so. The book covers events that occurred before she was born all the way up to the process of editing Are You My Mother? itself. The book is Bechdel's attempt to come to grips with her relationship with her mother, an unaffectionate amateur actor trapped in a marriage to a closeted homosexual. In exploring her mother's lack of warmth, Bechdel supplements her own recollections with insights from the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, particularly with reference to his notion of the true self and the false self and his theory on transitional objects. While various scenes depicting visits to psychologists later in life make it clear that Bechdel's childhood left a troubling mark on her adult life, the book ends on an uplifting note, concluding with the lines, "There was a certain thing I did not get from my mother. There is a lack, a gap, a void. But in its place, she has given me something else. Something, I would argue, that is far more valuable. She has given me the way out."[2]

Much like Fun Home, Are You My Mother? folds various other works into the story to help illuminate the narrative. As well as the writings of Donald Winnicott, Bechdel pulls from the works of the feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich; Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse and A Room of One's Own; the works of Sigmund Freud; the 1967 television adaption of The Forsyte Saga; Mozart's Don Giovanni; Molière's The Miser; and many other works.

Reception[edit]

In her book review for The New York Times, Katie Roiphe wrote that Are You My Mother? is "as complicated, brainy, inventive and satisfying as the finest prose memoirs."[3] Laura Miller's review for The Guardian called the book profound, but stated that the book's heavy focus on psychoanalysis weighs it down.[4]

The book won the 2013 Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Non-Fiction, and was a shortlisted finalist for the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir or Biography.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Parille, Ken. "Six Observations about Alison Bechdel's Graphic Archive "Are You My Mother?"". The Comics Journal. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Bechdel, Alison. Are You My Mother?. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-618-98250-9. 
  3. ^ Roiphe, Katie (April 27, 2012). "Drawn Together". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Miller, Laura (24 May 2012). "Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel – review". The Guardian.