Fun Home: NYC Trip Changes Alison’s Perspective

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What happens in the Fun Home NYC scenes? What does Alison Bechdel learn about herself from traveling to New York City?

In Fun Home, NYC offers one of Alisons’ first experiences seeing an LGBT community. She first visited with her father, and learned more about him through the trip.

Read about Fun Home, NYC, and how the trip changed Alison’s perspective.

Fun Home in NYC

While on a trip to NYC in 1976, a 15-year old Alison saw the city in a new light. She was traveling with her father and brothers to take part in the bicentennial celebrations. They stayed with a family friend who lived in Greenwich Village, a well-known LGBT community. During her time there, she began to notice the well-groomed, homosexual men walking on the street, not trying to hide their more feminine behaviors. Her family went to the ballet, had drinks with a gay couple, and saw A Chorus Line. These activities introduced her to members of the LGBT community and exposed her to LGBT stories. The the Fun Home NYC scenes, these experiences are eye-opening for Alison.

However, the trip was not without its problems, and Alison’s father wasn’t always an attentive parent. At one point on the trip, one of Alison’s younger brothers, John, wandered off. He walked through a known cruising area and was approached by a man who asked if he “wanted to see his boat.” At the first opportunity, John ran back to the apartment. In addition to John’s close call, Alison’s father would leave his kids to go out and “have a drink” late at night. Alison implies that he was likely meeting up with men and leaving his children to fulfill his sexual needs.

Years after the Fun Home NYC section, Alison moved to New York. She believes that, had her father not died from the car accident, there was a good chance he’d have died shortly after with the emergence of the AIDS crisis. This is because the LGBT community in New York was the center of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, and Alison’s father had a tendency to go out at night and sleep with men from that community when he visited the city. 

While she stands behind this observation, she notes it may be merely her attempt to find peace or meaning within her father’s passing. It would make him a tragic figure who lived a secretly promiscuous lifestyle because homophobia had forced him to repress his identity.

Literature and Education

Once Alison developed the ability to discuss literature in an intellectual way, she and her father began to connect. When Alison was in high school, she was assigned to her father’s English class. During this time, she discovered that she enjoyed the same types of books that her father did. Their discussions of literature extended beyond the classroom and helped them develop a closer relationship.

When Alison started college, she and her father actively talked about the books she was assigned in her English classes. However, his excitement for the literature she was reading soon left little room for her to have her own thoughts or opinions. She believes that he was living vicariously through her instead of connecting with her. Because of this, she began to move away from the literature that her father loved and began to focus more on her journey into LGBT culture. In Fun Home, her NYC experience was one of the first pushes to explore this culture.

At one point, Alison swore she was never going to take another English class during her time at school, but an oversight led her to take a January-term course discussing Ulysses by James Joyce. Ulysses was Alison’s father’s favorite book. He gave her a variety of materials to study before she began reading Joyce’s novel. One of these resources was Earthly Paradise by Colette. Collette was an influential voice in women’s independence in France and a known lesbian. At the time, Alison believed that her father gave her that book as a sign that he knew about her sexuality. Much after first beginning to understand her father in the Fun Home NYC scenes, Alison found she connected to him again.

Fun Home: NYC Trip Changes Alison’s Perspective

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Fun Home summary:

  • What it's like to grow up in a funeral home
  • Why Alison Bechdel suspected her dad was a closeted homosexual
  • Why Alison believes that her father's death may have been a suicide

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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