April 18, 2013

Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother?
Alison Bechdel


(April 18, 2013)

Alison Bechdel’s childhood was difficult. All of them are. This long, profound, and beautifully-drawn comic explores the author’s relationship with her mother, and also with her several psychiatrists, three girlfriends, and Virginia Woolf. On the way, she engages the work of psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott with depth and sensitivity.

My father was an analyst. Almost anything about psychoanalytic theory will send me running for the exits, but somehow I found this work thoughtful and engaging and – for once – more focused on ideas than on theoretical fireworks. It’s also a relief that, through all the emotional discussions with mother and shrink, Alison’s sexuality is always taken as a fact, not something to be explained much less fixed. The book is technically masterful, especially when pulling two or three separate arguments across a series of panels without muddling them and without being bogged down in more allegory than the medium can bear.