There’s a point in everyone’s life where they reflect on their choices and decisions. Some call it a mid-life crisis and for some people, like Alison Bechdel, it’s more of an opportunity. Alison had a rough life, very little education because she spent
her childhood working at her father’s funeral home. Her father is a perfectionist when it comes to his home. He is not interested in anything more than his house. Not even his children.
The book starts off with Alison talking about what life was
like when she was younger. She talked a lot about how her father was never
really caring towards her and how the few moments he was were beautiful and
empowering. The book starts with explaining the game of “Airplane,” in which
she states “It was a discomfort well worth the rare physical contact, and
certainly worth the moment of perfect balance when I soared above him.” This
line specifically hits me hard because growing up with a parent who puts their
mood and well-being above yours is something that I feel way too deeply.
The second chapter is called “A Happy Death.” It starts off
with a line “There’s no proof, actually, that my father killed himself. No one
knew it wasn’t an accident.” She was in college and trying to figure herself
out when she got a call that would change her life. She learns that he died and
her and her mom talked it over for hours about how it wasn’t an accident. She
feels no remorse at all and doesn’t understand why. The only way for her to feel
any sort of relief is by lashing out.
The next chapters get very dark. The following chapter
begins with Alison describing all of the ways her father’s death was “queer.”
Alison sent a letter, about a month before her dad’s death, coming out to her
parents as lesbian. To which she got a response she could never prepare herself
for. Her father was having affairs with teenage boys. Alison had always said
she would never get married but this news made her even surer of that decision.
Alison becomes more comfortable in her skin and soon moves in with her
girlfriend, Joan. Two weeks before her father’s death, Alison gets a phone call
that her parents are divorcing. Alison believes her father is like F. Scott
Fitzgerald – they prefer fantasy over reality.
This chapter begins with a detail description of how her
father died. She goes back in time to when she was a child and she explained to
her father that she wanted to be more masculine than he wanted her to be. He
forces more feminine things on her because that is what he wants for himself.
She recalls a time when they were in a diner when Alison saw a female in male
clothing and decided that was desperately who she wanted to be.
The following chapter begins with a dream Alison had. In
this dream, Alison runs up to her dad to show him a sunset but when she arrives
to him, the sun has already set. She relates this to his death because she says
that “his sun both rose and set in the same place.” Alison wrote poems when she
was little but her father never accepted it so she eventually just gave up on
it. Alison eventually develops OCD and finds that one positive outcome is that
she keeps a diary. She imagines that her journal will make her evil feelings
towards people disappear. Alison overcomes her OCD with the help of her mother
and instead of a journal; Alison now talks to her mom instead.
Alison’s father is now at a psychiatrist to try to stop
cheating on his wife. Alison’s best friend’s mom surprises Alison’s parents by
taking the three kids to their house for a few nights. While Alison is there,
she finds out that her father has been arrested for picking up an underage boy
in the next alley. On Labor Day, the Bechdel’s throw a party, at that party,
Alison’s father finds a new love interest. They all play dress up, and Alison immensely
enjoys dressing as a boy.
In 1967, Alison visits her mom’s friend and it is then that
Alison realizes there are gay people all around her. But she does not identify
as a lesbian yet and she also hasn’t put together that her father is gay.
Alison realizes that her main bond with her father was on an intellectual level.
We are now back to Alison’s first year at college. Alison joins the gay union
at college and becomes coming out to her friends and her father is immensely proud.
When she comes home, her father finally talks to her about being gay. He didn’t
open up much but it was still nice for Alison to relate to him. It ends with a
drawing of a truck with the caption “He did hurtle into the sea, of course.”
Following, is a picture of young Alison jumping into the water and her father
there to catch her with the caption “But in the tricky reverse narration that
impels entwined stories, he was there to catch me when I leapt.”
This book and musical mean a whole lot to me because I can relate with Alison in so many ways. I feel that the approach the author took at explaining her life was very raw and awakening and there is so much power in the way she wrote. This memoir is vibrant and detailed in the best way possible. I believe that the way she portrays her father as a hero after all of the wrong things he’s done shows a lot about who she is. Questioning of self is something we all go through and I think that her approach is very helpful in how I would like to approach it. The beauty in just a small piece of literature is exciting and makes me feel like I could change the world with my words as well
There are a lot of people like Alison’s dad in the world; lost, living through others and misunderstood. While I don’t believe her father was a good person, he was still a person and deserved as much help as the rest of us had access to. Suicide
is no joke. Suicide in males is more likely because we, as a human race, believe that men should suppress their feelings and, when sad, are told to “grow some balls.” White males accounted for 70% of all suicides in 2013. This is still happening
and it will continue to happen until we take a stand and rise above our comfort zones to help people out. Which leads me to another website: http://www.dosomething.org/us
This website is not only informing you on issues that are happening, but also explaining to you how to help fix them. I am a member of Do Something and have been for 2 years now. Being a bystander is just as bad as being a bully and if everyone just took the time to stop and smile or talk to each other, there would be significantly less suicides. There is something that needs to happen and it needs to happen soon. It starts with us! Next time you’re in the hallway stop and say hi. It takes two seconds and could make someone’s day a lot better.