Jeanette Winterson and Alison Bechdel’s Memoirs About Mothers

New York Magazine Book Review:

“Now, almost twenty years later, two of that generation’s leading lights have produced memoirs that trace their own early literary influences, their origins as writers, and—especially—their relationships to their mothers. The first of these, Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, came out this month. The second, Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?, will be published in May.

Until recently, Bechdel was best known as the author of Dykes to Watch Out For, a comic strip of uncommon political, interpersonal, and visual acuity. (Imagine a collaboration among Rachel Maddow, Charles Addams, and Charles Dickens, and you’ll get the gist.) Then, in 2006, she published Fun Home, a graphic memoir about her father—a distant, demanding, closeted gay man who pursued underage boys and died of an apparent suicide when Bechdel was in college. Fun Home became a national best seller and met with widespread acclaim; Time magazine, which does not anagram to “mainstream mag” but feels like it should, named it the best book of the year. Are You My Mother?, also a graphic memoir, is Bechdel’s maternal follow-up.

My initial reaction to Bechdel’s and Winterson’s new books was astonishment at their surface similarity: two mom- focused memoirs by literary lesbians who rose to prominence in the eighties, published almost simultaneously. In fact, though, what’s most remarkable is how different they are.”

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3 comments on “Jeanette Winterson and Alison Bechdel’s Memoirs About Mothers

  1. Alison Bechdel was greatly influential through her comic strip and books, “Dykes to Watch Out For,” of making genderqueer be trendy among Lesbians. She regularly ridiculed basic feminist politics and presented the trendy alternative: a Lesbian in a Lesbian group house going het, moving her man in, and having a baby with him (one story involved a Lesbian house member complaining about the condoms dripping with semen left in the bathroom, and the former-Lesbian’s retort was that it was no more offensive than seeing their tampons), Lesbians having a boy together (an opportunity to show the boy pissing on one of the Lesbians), and a genderqueer character who makes sado-masochism, porn, and trannies popular. Even though Bechdel is an excellent artist and included a diversity of characters, her politics had influence in our communities. Meanwhile, not once in all those years of publishing, did she draw/portray a single Butch. Who is included and who is excluded from Lesbian media has a powerful effect on our culture.

  2. Bev: so true.

    I’ve cooled my jets on ordering the Bechdel book.

    Trouble with ordering books on the internet is, they arrive, and then you think you have to read them. I miss women’s bookstores.

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