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Comic Book / Are You My Mother?

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Are You My Mother? is a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel and is a sequel to Fun Home. It is a memoir that details Alison's relationship with her mother, in Anachronic Order.

The graphic novel was published in 2012.

Tropes include

  • The '30s: Helen's early childhood years.
  • The '40s: Helen's childhood teen years take place in this decade and there is a scene where her brothers are making model planes of real life World War II planes on the kitchen table.
  • The '50s: Helen's and Bruce's young adult years, their courtship, and wedding take place.
  • The '60s: Alison's childhood and Helen's depression are covered here.
  • The '70s: Alison's teen years and Helen's entry into community theater are featured; also Helen goes to Washington D.C. to protest the just recently legalized abortion.
  • The '80s: Helen's widowhood and Alison's young adult years are covered, with Alison reading the bestseller The Drama of the Gifted Child and she stays up late watching Talking Heads on MTV and starting therapy.
  • The '90s: Alison's 2nd relationship is covered, where she and her partner attend her mother's theatrical production.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Averted. Alison refers to the works of Donald Winnicott and Alice Miller.
  • Art Evolution: Alison's style is much more detailed, dropping the Deliberate Monochrome from the previous book and incorporating varying shades of red.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Alison's partner Eloise is an attractive and full-figured woman whose nude curves are lovingly depicted in-universe and by Alison in the present-day.
  • Butch Lesbian: Not only Alison, but many of her partners featured in the book.
  • Color Contrast: When compared to the previous book Fun Home, which featured particularly gray-ish tones of blue at most, this book deploys vivid shades of red as it finds appropriate. Together, the colors illustrate the Red Oni, Blue Oni contrast between Alison's parents: her impassioned yet neglectful and mercurial father, and her consistent yet exhausted and aloof mother.
  • Demoted to Extra: Bruce, the focus of Fun Home, features much less prominently in this book. He still appears occasionally, but only in ways important to Helen's own life.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: As a child, Helen mimicked a heroine from a movie doing this, only to break her necklace by accident.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Helen says that if she hadn't had children she could've been an academic like Adrienne Rich.
  • In the Blood: Like her father, Alison has some rather interesting experiences with her various partners. She also inherits his bad temper, or at least his ability to make damages to the house.
  • Parents as People: Helen still proves herself to be able to relate to Alison in a way Bruce wasn't. She eventually expresses that Fun Home is a story that "must be served" in spite of her or other family members' feelings on it. In the closing moments of the book, Alison states that while "there was a certain thing" she never received from Helen, her mother was still loving in that she gave Alison "the way out" of their family drama.
  • Parental Substitute: Alison's psychiatrist Jocelyn eventually provides her the explicit caring, parental love and emotional availability neither her father nor mother were ever truly able to provide. Alison compares this to Winnicott's paternal care for many of his child patients. This to the following exchange:
    Jocelyn: Do I have to go in with pliers? A lot of what we've done in here has to do with love. I know that you love me.
    Alison feels her own neck and hesitates.
    Alison: I... I do. I love you.
  • The Shrink: Alison sees several, many whom are getting certified in psychoanalysis.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The book's title comes from the picture book "Are You My Mother?"
    • Alison quotes Winnie the Pooh and refers to the Narnia books, in how the children were sent to the countryside.
  • Straying Baby: Alison as a toddler wandered out of Helen's eyesight and knocked down a large mirror.
  • The Unfavorite: Despite the relationship Alison had with her mother, she noted that her mother favored her brothers over her. Helen reveals that her mother implicitly taught her that boys were better than girls.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Alison's different therapists try to impress this into her during their sessions, namely in that she is adorable and a good person.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Alison tried to please both her parents, but failed on that front. She acknowledges it can be ridiculous to try and do so.