Alison Bechdel's autobiographical graphic novel, Fun Home (2006), intricately weaves together the author's coming-out story with her family's history, particularly the story of her father's closeted queer sexuality and possible suicide. In its exploration of family history, queer desires, and larger American historical events, Bechdel's novel deals with themes of trauma, memory, and historical narrative. The novel has been embraced for the queer way in which it approaches her family archive — it refuses to settle on one understanding of the truth of Bechdel's father, his sexuality, and the author's relationship to him, and instead insists on piecing together the past from a variety of angles. This article focuses on how the queer qualities of contingency and partiality that Fun Home produces around sexuality and the Bechdel family's history is an effect of the author's use of the visual possibilities of the graphic genre. Mapping Bechdel's coming-of-age story as a narrative about coming to see, this article traces the importance of vision in young Alison's gender identity, her relationship to her father, and her ability to posthumously “see” her father through family photographs. This article thus draws out the ways in which Bechdel represents the visual field as a source of both restriction and queer pleasure, the family as a site of both normalizing and queer looks, and the inevitable partiality of what she is able to see.
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Sam McBean; Seeing in Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. Camera Obscura 1 December 2013; 28 (3 (84)): 103–123. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2352167
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