7 p.m. Oct. 10
East Quad Auditorium
U of M, Ann Arbor
All the signs alluded to a secret Alison Bechdel’s father hid. But to this day the author of the long-running comic strip “Dykes To Watch Out For” will never know her dad’s actual sexual orientation.
“I’d like to think of him as gay,” says Bechdel, 46. “I don’t really know.”
A year after Bechdel’s father, Bruce, died – when she was 20 – she perused old family photographs and found one of a young man in his underwear. It wasn’t her father; it was one of his students.
“He had affairs with other men and boys,” Bechdel reveals.
She admits this period of her life was intense and confusing, and telling it through a graphic novel would’ve been both under appreciated and inappropriate at the time.
Now, Bechdel has decided to reveal the family’s dark secrets in her graphic memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.”
“It’s a story that I’ve been wanting to tell for a long time. I felt obligated in a certain way to tell the story. It felt, in some ways, like a very good story about two generations of gay people on a different wave and the different courses that their lives took.”
Her memoir reveals family secrets: her father’s not-so-straight behavior, the possibility his death was a suicide and life in “fun home,” the funeral parlor her father worked at.
“I’m airing out all of our dirty linen in public,” she says.
Sifting through archives of childhood diaries, drawings, her father’s letters and old calendars, Bechdel knew the project would be more ambitious and revealing than her syndicated strip. But she made sure she processed all of those emotions before she began the book.
“I didn’t want to inflict my therapy on other people,” she says. “I don’t think the book itself was therapeutic in the strictest sense. It was, well, maybe I’m lying. It was certainly cathartic.”
As drafts progressed, she showed her mother.
“I sort of felt like she must be OK with it. That wasn’t the case,” Bechdel says. “She never tried to stop me from doing it, which I deeply respect, (but) it’s complicated.”
Although the memoir has token a toll on her family, People, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly have praised it. There’s even been talk about adapting “Fun Home” for the big screen (she’d like to see David Schwimmer of “Friends” in her role).
Even the FedEx man acknowledged her work when he dropped off a package. He gave her a smile and said “nice piece in Entertainment Weekly.”
Bechdel laughs, “That was a trip.”