Alison Bechdel ushers in Mission Creek

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Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival commences today, and artists from all media and all areas — ranging from Kurt Vile to Marc Maron and Kevin Smith, Son Lux to Deer Tick — have poured into Iowa City.

Writer Alison Bechdel will usher in the week of music, literature, art, performance, food, and conversation with an informal Q&A at 2 p.m. at the Englert, 221 E. Washington St., followed by a 4 p.m. book signing at Daydreams Comics, 21 S. Dubuque St., and a lecture at 7:30 p.m. at the Englert.

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Bechdel emerged on the literary scene in 1983 with her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For.” It followed a group of friends as they navigated mundane troubles and politics of the early lesbian landscape. Not only one of the earliest and longest-running queer comics, it became one of the most politically poignant, coining the now iconic “Bechdel Test.” The test presents qualifications a work must pass to be considered feminist-friendly.
Her graphic novel Fun Home landed her atop numerous best-of-2006 lists, including Time’s Best Book list. Subtitled as a “Family Tragicomic,” she chronicles her upbringing in rural Pennsylvania, dissecting the dynamics between her and her father. The reader traces her childhood and sexual awakening, which paralleled the outing of her own closeted — and complex — father. The lyrical honesty used to explore topics of sexual orientation, gender roles, and suicide cemented it in college lit classes’ syllabi. It also sparked controversy, as select Southern universities and libraries objected to the content.

She followed the best seller with 2012’s Are You My Mother? The graphic novel examines her complicated relationship with her mother. Woven in her prose are references to psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott and Virginia Woolf’s works, culminating in deft insights into family and human nature.

In 2013, Fun Home was adapted for the stage. Lauded as the first mainstream musical to feature a young lesbian protagonist, it won numerous accolades including Tony Award for Best musical for 2015’s Broadway production.

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