Fun Home [Book Review]

TitleFun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel
Genre: Graphic memoir
Pages: 232
Year: 2006
Publisher: Mariner Books
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4/5

Summary:

When Alison Bechdel is in college, two very big things happen to her. She comes out and her father dies. To her, these are not unrelated. In this graphic novel (well…memoir), she explains why.

My Thoughts:

I am once again faced with the challenge of reviewing a memoir without passing judgment on the author’s life. But, in some ways, Fun Home is only half-memoir, as her father’s story is just as important to her exploration of their relationship. And because she uses a less common medium – the graphic memoir – to tell her story, it makes it a little easier.

At its heart, this is a story about a father and a daughter with a very complicated relationship. But it’s really so much more.

One thing graphic novels/memoirs have going for them is the ability to use visual cues and themes. For example, the repeat image of Bechdel’s father crossing the road seconds before his death made a very powerful, very effective, and very quick reminder of what prompted her story. Ben, who studied this in class and is the reason I read it in the first time, tells me there are all sorts of visual themes, like her pants and the use of photographs.

Another thing that made this book interesting were the literary motifs. Each section of the book uses a book – like Ulysses or The Great Gatsby – to help tell the story. This makes it extra enjoyable for Great Books readers.

*****

I assume a lot of you have read this (it seems to be popular in college/grad school courses these days). What did you think?

Habibi [Book Review]

 Title: Habibi
Author: Craig Thompson
Genre: Graphic Novel
ISBN: 0375424148
Length: 672 pages
Year: 2011
Publisher: Pantheon
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5

My Thoughts:

I’m not really sure how to review Habibi. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever read before. It tells the story of Dodola and Zam, two child slaves who find freedom in each other. Dodola, only 9 years older than Zam, raises him in the desert until they are suddenly torn apart. Weaved in between their story are the stories of the Koran (familiar to all of us of Abrahamic religions).

Habibi is harsh and sad and beautiful all at the same time. Unlike Thompson’s other books, I read it very slowly, savoring the details. The art is incredible – half the emotion is in the images. Seriously, just look at that cover! (even the librarian commented on it when I checked it out). And the amount of research that must have gone into this book is amazing.

The book never went where I thought it was going to go, and there were some real surprises that completely changed my perspective.

Habibi is not for the faint of heart. But it really is a beautiful story despite its shocking realness.

Buy It Now: IndieBound

Dodola learning to write.

BBAW: Look What You Made Me Do

Today’s Topic:

Wednesday—Unexpected Treasure
We invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger.  What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?

Me (while thinking of how to answer this question): What book did I only read because of a blogger’s recommendation?
Ben: EVERY book you’ve read this year.

He has a fair point (although he said it with some amount of disdain in his voice). Most of my reading is formed by other bloggers. It’s how I know what’s out there and worth reading. As a result, I can’t single out ONE book that I tried because of a blogger’s recommendation. Instead, I am going to discuss two to knew genres and one new series I tried because of bloggers. I never was very good at following directions.

(1) Fantasy

I’ve read some light fantasy and young adult/middle grade fantasy but before this year, I had yet to read a real, adult fantasy novel (wow, “adult fantasy” give you the wrong idea, huh?). My IRL friend and sometimes book blogger, Susan, gave me The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan a few years ago, but it was Heather from Age 30+…A Lifetime of Books who finally convinced me to read it. She picked it as her That’s How I Blog book and I figured that was as good a time as ever to finally sit down and read it.

Well, I tried to sit down and read it and it didn’t work out. Heather’s show came and went and I still hadn’t read it. But I did pick up the audio from the library and even though it took me months (that’s a LONG time to stick with an audiobook) I finally finished it.

What did I think? Um, I didn’t really like it. You can read my full review here. But I am glad that I tried it. That’s part of the fun of reading, right? Figuring out what you like and what you don’t. I’ve gotten very good at picking out books that I’ll like but I still like to push myself a bit.

(2) Graphic Novels

Another genre that I had neglected as a reader was graphic novels. When Nymeth from Things Mean a Lot gushed about Blankets by Craig Thompson, I couldn’t resist. I grabbed it for the spring readathon, devoured it in a couple hours, and decided that graphic novels were my new favorite thing.  I then promptly forgot to read any more of them and still haven’t to this day. But I want to. Because I loved Blankets. You can read my full review here.

(3) Betsy-Tacy

In my Favorite Books of 2009 post, I said that I will remember 2009 as the year I discovered Betsy-Tacy. It was a combination of Emily from Books, the Universe, and Everything and Jen from Bookclub Girl that finally got me to give these books a try. And, while I haven’t read them all yet, I love what I have read. I think part of me doesn’t want to finish it because it’s that good.

So there you have it, three new things I tried because of a blogger. What new books/genres have you tried this year?

The Sunday Salon – Share with Me Your Favorite Graphic Novels

First, an update (skip to the end for the reader participation part)

Books Read this week:

Currently Reading:


On Deck:

And Now Your Turn

I reviewed my first graphic novel this week and since I received so many wonderful comments on that post, I thought I would ask all of you to help guide me through this new-to-me genre. What is your favorite graphic novel? What graphic novel do I NEED to read? Thanks in advance for the fantastic suggestions I’m sure to receive.

Blankets [Book Review]

Title: Blankets
Author: Craig Thompson
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir
ISBN: 1891830430
Pages: 592
Year: 2003
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Source: Library
Rating: 5/5

Graphic novels seem all the rage lately. Everyone is reading them. Except me. Last weekend during the readathon, I decided to change that. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to start with my plunge into graphic novels, but Nymeth from Things Mean a Lot‘s gushing review of Blankets sealed my fate. Blankets was to be that first graphic novel. And I was certainly not disappointed.

Blankets is billed as an illustrated novel, but I’m 99% sure it’s actually a memoir. It’s primarily the story of Thompson’s first love but the scenes jump around from his childhood spent sharing a bed with his little brother and eventually to his adulthood. Blankets is moving in a way that I didn’t realize graphic novels could be. This book made me want to fall in love for the first time all over again.

Blankets shows us two very different families and does not hide the ugly parts.  We see the pain in Raina’s parents and the authority in Thompson’s. It tackles the tough questions so many of us face growing up in religious families. Thompson, once destined for the ministry, begins questioning the absolutes he’s been taught, and the world his faith has created starts unraveling around him.

This story in a regular format would not do it justice. The illustrations convey so much emotion. Words alone cannot describe how amazing this novel is, so I must include some “excerpts.”

This is a story for anyone who has ever fallen in love, or questioned her faith, or even those who have yet to do either. Please, please, please go read this if you haven’t. It will only take you a couple hours. Then find me on here, call me, knock on my door and share with me your love for this book.

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound; Powell’s

Other Reviews: