Introductions: Alison Bechdel

On October 22 at Town Hall Seattle, SAL Executive Director Ruth Dickey introduced Alison Bechdel, the first author in SAL’s new Women You Need to Know series.

When I came out to my family, in 1994, my brother (who was in a PhD program at UMass Amherst and living in Northampton, MA, also known as Lesbianville, USA), sent me several collections of Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For. Opening those pages was like the antithesis of that dream where you show up at high school and suddenly realize you are somehow naked, did not complete a project that is due, and neglected to study for a test. Diving into Dykes to Watch Out For was like a new version of the dream, where I was not only clothed but wearing the perfect outfit, waving to a crowd of friends in the lunchroom and totally prepared for the test. I loved those comics in a profound and passionate way that perhaps many of you here tonight can understand – I loved them because they brought to life a world I hadn’t fully understood was even possible.

Alison Bechdel self-syndicated Dykes to Watch Out For for 25 years, and then published two acclaimed graphic memoirs, Fun Home and Are You My Mother?. Fun Home was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Salon and Time. The New York Times described it as “a comic book for lovers of words,” in which “rich language and precise images combine to create a lush piece of work.” Bechdel has won numerous awards including the Bill Whitehead Award and a MacArthur Genius Grant, and Fun Home was made into a hit Broadway musical, which won 5 Tonys, including Best Musical.

What I love most about both Fun Home and Are You My Mother? is the way they combine this idea of nakedness – of profound candor about experiences and emotions – and the multiplicity of perspectives that the graphic form allows in a way that is at turns searing, nuanced, layered, profoundly moving and deeply funny. Bechdel’s willingness to look at her own life and family and struggle to find connections and a sense of home brilliantly invites us all into her yearning and her journey. Please join me in warmly welcoming the woman who made me finally believe in the power of the graphic novel, and who through her own courage and immense talent helps us all imagine new worlds, Alison Bechdel.

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