Growin’ Up – A blog about life after Smith by Lauren Kaelin ’10 : Gonna let it show!

October 15, 2010

I just reread Fun Home by Alison Bechdel– in honor of National Coming Out Day or something.

Wow, that video is amazing. I wonder if I could find a dress like that on Etsy– search ‘white sequin gown’?

Fun Home is a graphic memoir that parallels Bechdel coming out story with the suicide of her closeted gay father. But, the strength of the book is that it isn’t really that simple. It’s complicated to feel now connected to your gay father with your shared identity, while simultaneously never more distant because he’s been lying your whole life. How do you revise your history to fit in this glaring omission? Your father is gay; you’re a lesbian. In spite of? In relation to? In conjugation with? Fun Home is an attempt to define within redefinition, to seek truths in mountains of untruths.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this revisionist history recently–reforming your self identity through self-reflection; the inherent complications of that. Say, you learn something about your parents, grandparents– they’re gay, drug-abusers, died in the Holocaust– this changes things. Now your life is seen through a different lens, right? You have to go back and revise your personal history, search for clues and  new significance in these omissions.

Fun Home reminds me a lot of Maus actually, sans of course, the Holocaust. Maus is, after all, really a memoir about Art Spiegelman’s complicated relationship with his father.

But, really– how do you write your own history? How do you identify the moments of historical personal significance– the turning points in your own life? The climax? The rising and falling action? For Alison Bechdel it was coming out to her parents and her father’s suicide a few months later. For Art Spiegelman is was learning that his father destroyed his mother’s diaries that she kept during the Holocaust and therefore any hope of learning her story. This are pivotal moments. Identified and illustrated.

But what’s been left out? Is this account really honest? It’s been arranged to follow plot arcs and answer questions– how TRUE could it be?

In answer, other self-archivists have a more democratic method of narrative. The Beautiful Hills of Brooklyn, an upcoming film, based on the true story of Jessie Singer Sylvester who meticulously recorded the daily activities of her elderly life in Brooklyn without any narrative arc.  “Rested a while. Got an apple. Had supper. Washed the dishes. Then to bed.”

That Polaroid chronicle I posted on here earlier. One Polaroid every day for 18 years– no labels or captions. Just one. We’re left to define a narrative.

A curator at the Toledo Museum had taken meticulous notes in spiral notebooks for thirty plus years about every museum/show he’d every been to. Every work of art of interest. He was going to have an intern develop a search database for this catalog next summer.

Maybe I’ll buy a journal.

Or this dress…



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