Book Review: Are You My Mother? Alison Bechdel

posted May 2, 2012, 8:29 AM by jj pionke
Caveat: I've loved Bechdel's work since in the middle of her Dykes to Watch Out For days.  I've got all of the books and then when the big compendium came out, I got that too.  I also loved Fun Home, though admittedly, it's a very different book then the DTWOF comics.  I loved Fun Home because I could identify with bits and pieces like having a rough relationship with dad and being literary.  That said, I will say that I am nowhere near as literary as Bechdel is.  She goes for the hardcore literary theory which is something that I deeply struggle with at the best of times.

Are You My Mother? is a book that looks at Bechdel's relationship with her mother but also her relationship with herself.  She painfully and in great detail examines all of this through the lens of therapy and romantic relationships.  I found reading this book right now in this moment to be weirdly apropos because I've been seeing a therapist for the last year and some of the things that are in the book have totally been said in my own therapy sessions.  It's reassuring to know that therapists apparently do sound similar at times and that it's not just me.  Anyway, the book is an excellent, if hard read.  Like in Fun Home, Bechdel brings out a tremendous amount of hardcore theory - this time psychoanalysis, especially by Winnicott.  She also spends a lot of time talking about Lacanian ideas, though only really acknowledges that towards the end.  Needless to say, this is not an easy on the brain book to read.  It's a rewarding read and it's heartbreaking too and it's so worth it.  

Who should read this book?   If you loved Fun Home, if you've spent time in therapy, if you are interested in psychoanalysis/Lacan - you will get a kick out of this book.  If you are looking for a fun afternoon read with no nutritional content whatsoever, this is not the book for you.