Community and Belonging in Fun Home

One of the things that struck me in the opening chapters of Fun Home was Alison’s sense of her community and her place in the various communities she describes. We get descriptions mainly of Alison’s interactions with two communities – the family community that she was born into and struggles to navigate, and the queer community which she discovers in college. The intersection of these two communities was quite interesting to me, particularly as Alison struggles to reconcile her father’s sexuality with her own experience of sexuality. For Alison, joining (at least for one meeting) the Gay Union at school is a method of declaring her sexuality both to herself and to her community, and when she leaves she feels “exhilarated.” Alison’s discovery of her sexuality through books, these meetings, and her relationship with Joan serves the function of a kind of coming of age narrative within the novel, but this arc is complicated by her relationship with her family. Alison describes her declaration of her sexuality to her family as overshadowed by the news of her father’s affairs with young men, claiming that she had been “upstaged, demoted in [her] own drama to comic relief in [her] parents’ tragedy” (58). Alison seems to resent her father for this, but at the same time, it helps her to make sense of her relationship with him and her role within the family. Alison seems to find some sort of comfort in labeling herself as the “butch” to her father’s “nelly” (15), and this is further exemplified as Alison ponders whether her coming out could have influenced her father’s suicide. She writes that she is “reluctant to let go of that last, tenuous bond,” (86) implying that some part of herĀ wants to have influenced her father’s death. Having grown up with such an estranged, complex relationship with her father, and with her own sexuality, the intersection of these two narratives seems to provide a sense of belonging and comfort for Alison, even though these personal

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  1. I agree with your assessment that Alison’s slow acceptance of her identity as a queer woman has a strange, complicated connection with her relationship with her father, but I’m wondering how these relationships should be viewed. There’s a way in which this “tenuous bond” (86) that you mentioned is only allowed to grow because of the distance between daughter and father. On that page, for example, Alison and her father are depicted in the same room, but their characters are framed in two different windows, completely shut-out from each other. This seems to be connected with Alison’s belief that her use of fictional characters as description can be attributed to the fact that the “cool aesthetic distance” (67) is an appropriate way to describe her familial connections. It’s interesting, then, how this distance is the very thing that provides Alison a sense of belonging and comfort.

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