Thoughts On Uses of Graphic Vs. Written Memoirs

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Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a memoir that has been written/drawn as a graphic novel (apparently it is also described as a graphic memoir because to call it a graphic “novel” would be technically wrong, what with it being a totally different genre but I digress). I’ve read my fair share of graphic novels and a couple of memoirs before, and graphic memoirs weren’t too hard to imagine for me even before reading this book.

In a way, I do think that it makes sense for it to become a popular format for memoirs, with how different the subject content will touch the readers between the more traditional written text and the visually aided graphics. Memoirs, no matter how you write them, are obviously very personal and (most of the time) completely subjective. This here is the reason why I believe choosing to make a graphic memoir is much more effective and better suited for certain aspects compared to the written.

As an all-word written memoir, the readers are made to visualize the author’s experience themselves, whereas graphic novels simply show, and more (the little details that might seem out of the loop with the story that is currently being told may be added for, in a way, better understanding of specific characters like the example of the grease stain on page 39 which humanizes them and makes them that much more real unlike the fictional characters of any other novels). No matter how beautifully descriptive the author may have written out their memories, we as readers will each imagine our own versions of it, tweaked here and there with our own experiences. How engaging each version is depends on what kind of a reader you are really, and which you’d enjoy more is not anyone’s call. However for a memoir, I believe that knowing this story is exclusively, completely the author’s experience with the transferring and understanding of the memories as an outsider is important, though (once again) it may vary on what the author wants to accomplish. Thoughts?

One thought on “Thoughts On Uses of Graphic Vs. Written Memoirs

  1. This makes a lot of sense to me–if we are given text then if we “picture” anything at all, it’s going to be largely from our own idiosyncratic experience. So if someone wants to give us a more authentic sense of past experience such as through a memoir, providing either photographs or drawings is going to be better for that purpose. And maybe drawing is even better in a way, because it provides the author’s own interpretation, their own way of conceiving of the past, whereas photographs are more lifeless records. The author of a graphic memoir could alter the images in ways that better show her own memories, feelings, sense of significance of events.

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