Alison Bechdel (born September 10, 1960) is an American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, in 2006 she became a best-selling and critically acclaimed author with her graphic memoir Fun Home.
Life and Career
Alison Bechdel was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania to Roman Catholic parents who were teachers. Her family also owned and operated a funeral home. Bechdel's brother is keyboard player John Bechdel, who has worked with many bands including Ministry. She attended Simon's Rock College and then Oberlin College, graduating in 1981.
Bechdel moved to New York City and applied to, but was rejected from, many art schools, 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. It was also in Dykes to Watch Out For where she formulated what is now known as "the Bechdel Test", which tests a movie (or other mainstream media) on its depiction of women based on whether 1) there are at least two women, who 2) talk to each other 3) about something other than a man. 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 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 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. It spent two weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction bestseller list. It 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 Fun Home as #1 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 while she works 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 2012, she released another memoir, Are You My Mother? analyzing her relationship with her mother as Fun Home did with her father. She currently resides in Bolton, Vermont.
- Dykes to Watch Out For (1986)
- More Dykes to Watch Out For (1988)
- New, Improved! Dykes to Watch Out For (1990)
- Dykes to Watch Out For: The Sequel (1992)
- Spawn of Dykes to Watch Out For (1993)
- Unnatural Dykes to Watch Out For (1995)
- Hot, Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For (1997)
- Split-Level Dykes to Watch Out For (1998)
- The Indelible Alison Bechdel: Confessions, Comix, and Miscellaneous Dykes to Watch Out For (1998)
- Post-Dykes to Watch Out For (2000)
- Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch Out For (2003)
- Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For (2005)
- The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (2008); A compendium containing the vast majority of the strips in all previous collections as well as all 2005-2008 strips not previously published
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)
- Are You My Mother? (2012)
- "The Crush" in Gay Comix #10 (1987), edited by Bob Ross
- "A Coupla Dykes Sittin' Around Talkin' About AIDS" in Strip AIDS U.S.A., edited by Trina Robbins, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Robert Triptow (1988)
- "Free Association" and "Gallantry", with Harvey Pekar in American Splendor #14 (1989)
- "The Mitt" in Wimmen's Comix #15, edited by Phoebe Gloeckner and Angela Bocage (1989)
- "Dykes To Watch Out For Presents Particular Persuasions" in Choices, edited by Trina Robbins (1990)
- Gay Comics #19 (1993), edited by Bob Ross
- "Overexposed" in Gay Comics #25 (1998), edited by Bob Ross
- "Oppressed Minority Cartoonist" and "The Party" in Juicy Mother, edited by Jennifer Camper (2005)
- "A Perfect Match" in Juicy Mother 2: How They Met, edited by Jennifer Camper (2007)
- "Vermont" in State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey (2008)
- "a STORY about Life" in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #38, edited by Dave Eggers (2009)
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