Alison Bechdel was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania to Roman Catholic parents who were teachers. Bechdel's brother is keyboard player John Bechdel, who has worked with many bands including Ministry. Her family also owned and operated a funeral home. She attended Simon's Rock College and then Oberlin College, graduating in 1981.
Bechdel moved to New York City and applied to many art schools but was rejected and worked in a number of office jobs in the publishing industry.
She began Dykes To Watch Out For as a single drawing labeled "Marianne, dissatisfied with the morning brew: Dykes to Watch Out For, plate no. 27". An acquaintance recommended she send her work to Womannews, a newspaper, which began to publish the strip regularly beginning with the July—August 1983 issue. After a year, other outlets began running the strip.
In the first years, Dykes To Watch Out For consisted of unconnected strips without a regular cast or serialized storyline. Bechdel introduced her regular characters, Mo and her friends, in 1987 while living in St. Paul, Minnesota. She became a full-time cartoonist in 1990 and later moved near Burlington, Vermont. She currently resides in Bolton, Vermont.
Dykes To Watch Out For is the origin of the Bechdel test.
In addition to Dykes To Watch Out For, Bechdel has also written and drawn autobiographical strips and has done illustrations for magazines and websites. In 1988, she began a short-lived page-length strip about the staff of a queer newspaper, titled "Servants to the Cause", for The Advocate.
In 2006, Bechdel published Fun Home, an autobiographical "tragicomic" chronicling her childhood and the years before and after her father's death. Fun Home has received more widespread mainstream attention than Bechdel's earlier work, with reviews in Entertainment Weekly, People and several features in The New York Times. Fun Home spent two weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction bestseller list.
Fun Home was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by numerous sources, including The New York Times, amazon.com, The Times of London, Publishers Weekly, salon.com, New York magazine, and Entertainment Weekly.
Time magazine named Alison Bechdel's Fun Home number one of its "10 Best Books of the Year." Lev Grossman and Richard LeCayo described Fun Home as "the unlikeliest literary success of 2006," and called it "a stunning memoir about a girl growing up in a small town with her cryptic, perfectionist dad and slowly realizing that a) she is gay and b) he is too. ... Bechdel's breathtakingly smart commentary duets with eloquent line drawings. Forget genre and sexual orientation: this is a masterpiece about two people who live in the same house but different worlds, and their mysterious debts to each other."
Fun Home was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award in the memoir/autobiography category. It also won the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work. Fun Home was also nominated for the Best Graphic Album award, and Bechdel was nominated for Best Writer/Artist.
Dykes To Watch Out For was suspended in 2008 so that Bechdel can work on another graphic memoir, with the working title Love Life: A Case Study. It will focus on Bechdel's relationships. Bechdel describes its themes as "the self, subjectivity, desire, the nature of reality, that sort of thing".
In February 2004, Bechdel married her partner since 1992, Amy Rubin, in a civil ceremony in San Francisco. However, all same-sex marriage licenses given by the city at that time were subsequently voided by the California Supreme Court. Bechdel and Rubin separated in 2006.
In November 2006 Bechdel was invited to sit on the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary.
No argument Alison Bechdel’s first books, “Dykes To Watch Out For,” are jewels in the crown of gay literature. But even their brilliance did not prepare me for the emotional depth and narrative complexity of “Fun Home.” Just when I thought the memoir had been thoroughly exhausted, Bechdel made two brilliant decisions. She used her skill as an artist to tell her story through amazing, detailed drawings. The pictures are so good she almost didn’t need words, but her writing is amazing. Bechdel is so concise (she has to be to fit a whole book into speech balloons!) I kept flipping back and re-reading pages to slow the book down.--Aaron Krach
Alison Bechdel, 1995, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123904)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (June 5, 2007)
Amazon: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
In this groundbreaking, bestselling graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father. In her hands, personal history becomes a work of amazing subtlety and power, written with controlled force and enlivened with humor, rich literary allusion, and heartbreaking detail.
Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the "Fun Home." It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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