china, translated

August 14th, 2008 | Uncategorized

olympics on tv

Are you watching the Olympics? Are you freaking out like I am because you just got a tv the size of your first futon?

I just found out that there’s going to be a Chinese translation of my memoir Fun Home. Which is pretty amazing. It’s been translated in a lot of places that seem unlikely to me, like Hungary and South Korea. But China–that’s pretty wild. There’s one catch, though.

They want to edit a few of my more explicit drawings. The sex scenes, the naked dead guy on the embalming table–they came up with a clever way to put text boxes over the offending body parts.

Although I find that sort of censorship as perverse as the publisher fears Chinese readers will find these images, I’ve agreed to it. It seems like a small compromise to make to get such an otherwise very queer book published there.

34 Responses to “china, translated”

  1. Leshka says:

    Congrats on the Chinese translation. It definitely is a small price to pay, considering…

    Have fun for me watching the Olympics! I wanted to see the pro beach volleyball, but my husband and I just gave up the expensive cable (it was hooked up to our computer, so we have no actual TV.)

    And I can’t wait for the new book! You and Keith Knight both have compilations out and I’m saving up for them. Yeah, it’s getting really bad in NYC…

  2. Sal says:

    Looks like you are about to fork that Aussie swimmer in the googles!

  3. shadocat says:

    Hey, at least think of how many millions of fans you’ll be gaining…small price to pay.

    Oh how I wish I had a TV as big as a futon (said the woman with the TV the size of a toaster—or as I like to call it,”The World’s Smallest Big Screen TV”.)

  4. The Cat Pimp says:

    I’ve not been watching the Olympics, but I did get what I call a “Giant-Ass TV” in April. I made cafe curtains so you could not see the TV from the street, which is good, because Google streetview took this year’s shot about a week after I put the curtains up.

    I consider the TV a not-so-guilty pleasure.

    I’m glad your book is going to be published there. Actually, I am amazed that it is going to be published there.

  5. Ellen O. says:

    I’ve never been much into watching the Olympics or sports in general. It probably has to do with some deep-seated body issue or abhorrence of competition (someone always loses, is miserable). As a kid, I used to get nervous for the gymnasts (one point in my life I looked a little like Mary Lou Retton — over identifying?)

    I have since concluded that my personality is polar-opposite of Olympic atheletes. They are keenly dedicated to one thing for long periods of their lives. I thrive on variation and new experiences.

    In any case, apparently there are a lot of nice bodies to look at.

    Enjoy the games. And congrats on the Chinese translation. It will change lives and mean much to millions of readers there.

  6. wildeny says:

    Congratulation on Chinese translation.

    Regarding the censorship, don’t they know that people of China can find other ways to get their missing sex scenes or the missing parts of bodies?

  7. Alex K says:

    The Hungarian version has finally appeared? Dang! I tried a search for it on a month ago and nothing. Can you post contact details (e-mail / website) for the publisher? I have SO many friends in Hungary to whom I’d like to give copies! And, of course, one for me, to carry forward the “Bordello” / “Lupanar” / “Puff” serial translation… maybe “Kurvahaz / Kurvahaza”? Any mely Magyarok out there who can help?

    Mind you, the “Puff” is probably confabulated. But it would do.

  8. Ron says:

    Congrats on the Chinese translation!

    My partner and I have been obsessed with the Olympics as well. Also because of a futon sized television.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You all should know that our own Maggie Jochild is posting brilliant Olympic commentary daily at her site

    You don’t want to miss these.

  10. Liza Cowan says:

    Ouch, that was me, Liza, above. sorry. Also, Maggie’s Olympic coverage is crossposted at where she is now a regular correspondent.

  11. Pam I says:

    Sorry but I just hate those huge TVs, especially for domestic use. I see them through the window of tiny apartments and wonder how they even get them up the stairs. Can’t people just sit closer? They must use a whole lot more power for both manufacture and use, and we don’t have any to waste.

    Maybe I’m immune to the attraction as I hardly watch TV and when I do it’s on the computer screen while I’m pretending to do something else.

  12. ksbel6 says:

    I have a normal sized TV in a very small living room, it looks like a big picture to me! Anyway, I love watching the athletes…I am so impressed with the things they have trained their bodies to do.

    Congrats on the Chinese edition!

  13. Susan says:

    That big tv will eat up a lot of energy when it is turned off. My solution…plug the tv into a power strip and turn off the power strip when not using the TV. I’ve done this for several things around the house…like my cable modem, phone charger, etc. I’ve seen a small difference in the electric bill.

  14. the squealer says:

    “small compromises” are a lot like building houses on the dune line and then wondering where the beach went…

  15. Sonya says:

    Congrats on the Chinese translation! I’m sure there will be quite a few Chinese readers who will be thrilled to have access to your book, even with the text-box censorship.

  16. The Cat Pimp says:

    When I ordered my Giant Ass Television, I went through my supply box and found a power strip. I put everything in the cabinet on it, including the VCR, DVD, cable and G.A.T. I decided to put my computer, small charging devices and modem on another power strip. When not in use, *all* of those gizmos are off from the power strip out.

    My power use went down 20%

    So, I actually use less electricity now that I have the G.A.T. If you TiVo your stuff, you will need to leave your cable box and recorder on, but the rest of it can go on a power strip.

    Just a little green tip from the Cat Pimp.

  17. Ellen O. says:

    Squealer — I don’t understand what you are saying about dune lines. If human beings compromised more, instead of battling to get exactly what they (think they) want, I think we’d be better off. Did you mean to imply something else?

    The China censorship isn’t cutting out the essence of the book. It seems like a giant, if imperfect, leap in the right direction.

  18. --MC says:

    I read somewhere that a book titled “Young Alison Bechdel Meets Leopard-Walk-Up-To-Dragon” is already available on the streets of Beijing.

  19. Snufkin says:

    I was going to say – chances are very good your book is already available in ‘pirate’ translation, probably uncensored, but with very very dodgy translations.

  20. Heidi says:

    I’ve been spending hours every day watching the Olympics. Where else will I ever get to see so much women’s team sports? I’m already sad that it’s going to be another four years before it happens again.

    I’m still quite happy with my 20-inch tv, but now I don’t know how I ever lived without a DVR. Best gadget ever. It’s gotten to where I’ll record shows and watch them the next day just so I can skip the ads.

  21. jude says:

    OMFLOG love the description of you screen – vastly amused at you having one, filing it away as justification should i ever have the wherewithal to get one.

    my brave-new-world screen vice is lying in bed with the laptop on my tummy & watching movies or Jon Stewart on-line.

    in spite of that, no cable, no dvr, & no decent reception of the Olympic channel has me feeling very 19th century listening to all you visitors from a better-wired-&-funded planet:>.

  22. DaneGreat says:

    Dear AB,

    I was at Amazon Bookstore in Minneapolis today, and I bought most of what remained of their DTWOF postcard collection (not with the characters we know, but the original “no. 26” types). I’ll be sending them far and wide, hoping the US mail service doesn’t steal them for their own amusement. Have you ever heard of someone trying to send a postcard with a picture of a naked dyke on it and getting in trouble with the censorship people?


  23. Susan D says:

    Well according to your clustermap you have a following there too.

  24. Hey, yeah! Check that out. But I also notice that the biggest red dot is on Taiwan, which has already published a translation of Fun Home, vide.

    chinese complex

    This one has all the body parts intact. It’s called the “Chinese complex” edition. Apparently in Taiwan they use more complex characters than on mainland China because Mao simplified them.

    Maybe I have that all wrong. If I do, I hope one of our cosmopolitan and erudite friends can explain it better. It’s all Chinese to me.

  25. meldyke says:


    You are correct about the complex versus simplified Chinese. If memory serves, the original goal of simplified Chinese was to increase the possibility of literacy, which I think it did.

    Having worked in China in the mid-1990s (before almost anyone admitted being gay in China, at least where I was – Wuhan, a city of ~9 million in central China), I think it is both amazing and wonderful that you’re going to be published there. They deserve you! 🙂 And I appreciate your willingness to comprise – it’s a great way to move ahead with China and help them save face, which is so culturally important.

    Where and when can we get copies here?

    Gong xi! (i.e. Congratulations, transliterated)

  26. nic h wales says:

    yes, I want a copy as well.

  27. Blushing Girl says:

    Never let the perfect get in the way of the good!

  28. minnie says:

    I was able to order an Italian-language copy of “Fun Home” by going to and limiting my search to bookstores in Italy.

    In Taipei, Taiwan, there’s a neat bookstore, “Page One” (exotic name, eh?) at Taipei 101 that’ll probably have the Traditional Chinese translation. Good place if you’re homesick for reading material in your native language too. Easy to find as it’s at the base of the tallest building around by far — and it’s open late.

    I’ve heard that it’s easier to glean the ideographic roots of characters in traditional Chinese writing, and not difficult to learn to read simplified if you know traditional, but that it’s difficult to understand traditional writing if you’ve first learned simplified. The literacy increase through use of simplified would be a good argument in its favor though. And if you’re a mainland scholar wanting to get into the etymology, perhaps it’s a moot issue — you’d just go for the traditional as part of your studies.

    Best wishes in your searches, Alex and the Sinophiles!

  29. Jaibe says:

    I think you & Google are both making the right choice. Esp. since people can always get the Taiwan version if they really want to.

    There are a ton of German copies of Fun Home at my favorite cafe in Vienna, phil. But I am really craving a DTWOF fix for some reason today 🙁

  30. tylik says:

    Just amplifying what meldyke wrote – “complex” Chinese is the older, aka “traditional” characters. Simplified came out of the PRC, with the aim of making the written language more accessible. So generally material out of the PRC is in jiantizi, and fantizi is used everywhere else. (I can’t speak much more about regionalization – friends who speak Cantonese have told me that there are characters that are used for material written by Cantonese speakers that aren’t used elsewhere. Can’t vouch for this – I can barely understand any spoken Cantonese, and then mostly when I’m drunk or sleep deprived. And if I run into a character I don’t recognize, I tend to assume it’s just me.)

    I learned jiantizi (simplified) first, and was somewhat traumatized when, during third year, we were given texts in fantizi (traditional) and just expected to be able to read them. (I was already one of the very few students in the program who didn’t speak Chinese at home.) But it got easier over time, and then when I was studying guwen (“classical Chinese” – in this case mostly material from about 2500 years ago) we had to use fantizi exclusively, and at this point they’re pretty similarly comfortable. (Used to b e that reading fantizi felt like work. Then one day I was hanging out in a store waiting for some keys to get copied, and I’d made it most of the way through an article before it occurred to me that the editorial slant was not what I’d expect of a publication with PRC ties… only to realize it was in fantizi and I hadn’t noticed. An odd moment in my brain.)

    This is a publication to be distributed in the PRC?

    I’m pretty anti-censorship, but… darn, if the worst they want to do is cover up the slippery bits, but otherwise keep the subject matter intact? I’m kind of shocked. Maybe in another decade someone can bring out the uncut version.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Love the description of your new TV. My lover just bought one…46″ HDTV and it’s almost obscene. But, we can’t stop watching the Olympics on it either! Amazing!

  32. Deb says:

    OOOPS! The above anonymous was me. Duh!

  33. Dr. Empirical says:

    A life lived without compromise would be a pretty lonely life.

    Excessive willingness to compromise leads to nothing being accomplished.

    It’s up to each individual to choose the path between these extremes that works for them. I certainly trust Alison to make the choice that’s right for her.

  34. abiekt says:

    For a month Fun Home will be published in Poland 🙂