September 17th, 2014 | Uncategorized

What a bizarre day. I’m sitting here watching my email fill up with message after message from people from so many different times and places of my life, all congratulating me for the astonishing good fortune of receiving a MacArthur Fellowship. Not to mention a flurry of texts and tweets, and I haven’t had the energy to even look at Facebook.

(I’m packing up to leave the artists residency where I’ve spent the past 6 weeks, plus I had to give a talk about my work tonight, and do some media interviews, so I’ve been pulled in a lot of different directions and haven’t been able to focus as intently as I would like on the incoming reactions.)

But I’ve heard from people representing the entire spectrum of my life. High school friends. My next door neighbors in Vermont. Long time readers of this blog. A smattering of ex-lovers. Writer friends saying the kindest, most generous things. The president of my college. A bunch of fancy authors and journalists. Several members of the cast and creative team of the musical adaptation of Fun Home. Serious heavyweight mentors and role models—namely, the photographer JEB and the cartoonist Howard Cruse, who made my work possible because of their own revolutionary, pathbreaking efforts when I was still wet behind the ears.

I heard from an 89 year old woman. My mortgage broker. Many, many cartoonist friends. Old friends I lived with in the Twin Cities in the 1980s. Friends of my parents! A cousin! A student! An old time dyke who said she was “crying tears of joy for how far society has come.” And Mary Bonauto, my fellow fellow, the MA attorney who also received a 2014 MacArthur for her tireless legal work for marriage equality.

Thank you to everyone. I will try in the coming days to answer everyone personally. But I’ll just sign off with this DTWOF episode from ten years ago. I don’t have access to the crisp line art version because I’m still away from home, but maybe you can make it out from this photo. This is the beginning of episode 451 of Dykes to Watch Out For, Pox Populi, from 2004.

sydney macarthur

67 Responses to “MacWHAAAAAAT?????”

  1. Jimmie Lee Johnson says:

    Congratulations! You deserve it. I have enjoyed your work for years.

  2. Dane says:

    YES! Haha! I’ve been thinking about/quoting this strip all day. Way to go, AB!

  3. cybercita says:

    We are so happy for you! You totally deserve this. Your work has touched so many lives and has been so inspirational and validating for so many people.

    I’m just very sorry that your mother didn’t get to experience this with you. I can’t resist posting this in her honor:

  4. sharon saxton says:

    You have represented us all for so long it is as though we have all won the award! You are sooooo deserving!

  5. kswhipple says:

    Congratulations again, and man do I ever miss that strip.

  6. Susan says:

    That is just a perfect strip to post, and a perfect honor. So very happy for you.

  7. Pat Tong says:

    I am so excited about this and so happy for you! How fitting to close your blog post with an episode of DTWOF, and not just for the reference to the grant. I will forever adore and admire that labor of love, and if that was all you ever did, you’d be, in my mind, the most brilliant cartoonist ever. Congratulations!

  8. Olivia DiLeonardo says:

    Congratulations! I have been following your work for years and am not surprised- you are amazing. Fun Home really resonated with me, as my dad was gay and was also very meticulous about his books (he was a librarian) and the trappings of his home. He died in 2005 of an AIDS-related illness and I discovered Fun Home the following year…it was a great comfort to me, and I re-read it often (I’m big on re-reading!). Anyway, congratulations, and thank you for all the beauty and solace you have given me. -Olivia

  9. Therry and St. Jerome and Max and Mishka says:

    Holy Mother of Pearl, you got an effin’ GENIUS GRANT. You and Betsey Gilhooley! We are gobsmacked. I have been chortling all day, and thinking, “Holy shit, I knew her when.” The words “50,000 watt AM station” have been echoing in my ears all day. The goils and the guys on FB are hitting LIKE LIKE LIKE. Congratulations! Don’t get cocky!

  10. Sal says:

    Does this mean you were behind the Bush administration??? Finally we know who to blame 😉

  11. Roberta Stone says:

    So happy for you. You totally deserve this award. Have been following you since the early days at GCN. Brilliant work through the years.

  12. maya says:

    Oh my. I just heard. Alison, I am so happy for you almost beyond words. Almost. It seems like another life when I shortly met you at your booth at the rainbow festival at Middlebury College in 1994 … or was it 1995? For me you were celebrity then as you are now in the most positive sense of the word. I had never met a writer I had actually read and loved and almost forgot my German over it. Enjoy every minute of what comes your way. You so deserve this! Maya

  13. Deena in OR says:

    Popping out of lurkdom to tell you-just SO pleased and proud. You are a natural fit for a MacArthur, in my not so humble opinion.

  14. Victoria says:

    SO very excited for you! I gave a crow of joy and fist pump at work when I read the news today, and kept a grin for some time at my mindless job. I wanted someone to ask why I shouted out, but no luck. You deserve this, and I feel proud that YOU won, that YOU are seen, and in some measure, so are all of the other lesbians living in the world, so are all of the other justice seekers, and righteously outraged, and activists and people who are living human lives. [Also very excited for Mary and many of the other folks this year!] May you draw and write to your heart’s content, and never lack for dry wood for the stove and wooly socks!

  15. Deb Rox says:

    So deserved. So wonderful to see true brilliance and goodness recognized and celebrated. Congratulations!

  16. frodolaughs says:

    Congratulations! Does this mean we’ll get to hear you interviewed on Fresh Hair?

  17. Meg says:

    Congratulations – genius you are. And utterly a wonderful human being – I’m delighted and excited for you.

  18. Susan Scheid says:

    It was a thrill for so many of us to see this news this morning. You’ve touched so, SO many lives in so many ways. I remember, for example, giving “Dykes to Watch Out For” to a friend visiting from England, and thereafter, she stayed in bed all day reading it cover to cover. (If I had had any sense, I would at least have photographed her there, buried in your book. Well, at least I have the mental image and can pass that on to you!) And, as I wrote to you earlier, your encouragement to me, a total stranger, about my very small writing efforts was a gift beyond price. Thank you so much for everything, and most of all for just being YOU. Congratulations, a thousand times over. You have earned this, oh, have you earned this!

  19. Julie says:

    Congratulations from another Twin Cities fan and long-time reader (I have always loved the Topaz, having had many meals/serious conversations at Ruby’s!). I’ve been teaching Fun Home for years–it’s brilliant, as are you.

    Thank you so much. All the best.

  20. Jen says:

    Congratulations! Love your books!

  21. Hannah Rabin says:

    Congratulations, Alison! I am so delighted that this award goes to YOU! Best wishes!

  22. Aunt Soozie says:

    Mazel Tov, Alison!! So happy for you!!

  23. Adena says:

    Congratulations! I’ve thought you were a genius since I first discovered your books in my college library so many years ago. This is so totally deserved! So awesome! Hooray! ….The news is so often bad, sad, infuriating – all about the wrong people winning and getting ahead while the truly deserving are neglected or worse, so it was so amazingly wonderful to see the NYT headline that at last the right person was getting the recognition and rewards that she so richly deserves! Something actually went right and properly in the world! I hope you’re celebrating up a storm! Hooray! 🙂

  24. Josiah says:

    Congratulations, Alison! It couldn’t go to a more deserving genius!

  25. Goldie Goldbloom says:

    So thrilled for you. Richly deserved.

  26. Nadine Beck says:

    Yesssss! About fucking time! I hope you do do whatever you want with the money. And also write more 😀 because your stuff is AWESOME. I’ve been reading your strip since I first found it in the 80s. It reached out a hand to help me when I was young and lost…. (I’m 50, so I guess I grew up with your “dykes.” :-D)
    Your writing has completely revolutionized a number of things — the graphic genre, openly gay characters in literature, strong female characters that don’t take any shit. Because it’s hysterical, can’t put-down stuff that speaks to soooo many people, it can’t be ignored.

    I just can’t tell you how happy I am that you got this grant. How often do you get confirmation that sometimes good things happen to people who actually deserve them?

  27. Pokey Anderson says:

    You?!?!?! And Mary Bonauto too!?!?!?!

    Is this some sort of parallel universe I’ve been seeking, all these years, finally come into being?

    Wonderful wonderful news!

    Do a little basking, Alison.

  28. Gina says:

    Congratulations from NYC, Alison! Well deserved. You’ll have to tell us how it feels once you are back home and the news has a chance to sink in. : )

  29. I literally screamed — with joy!–when I heard the news. Congratulations, Alison. This is so well-deserved. You have bravely paved the way for so many years, representing us with warmth, humor, wisdom, and generosity. You are my hero.

  30. Joe says:

    Congratulations! Can’t wait to read “Dykes and other Macarthur Genius grantees to Watch Out For”!

  31. Mentor says:

    [It just seems to get better and better:

    “New ‘Genius Grant’ Winner Alison Bechdel to Write New Graphic Memoir”

    — Mentor]

  32. Kate L says:

    Fantabulous news, indeed (to paraphrase Ginjoint’s response to the initial MacArthur Grant post). It’s official – A.B. is a genius! Sydney must be green with envy. 🙂

  33. Acilius says:

    Congratulations to the MacArthur Foundation on your acceptance of their award!

  34. Enid says:

    I can’t say it any better – Congratulations! I am so glad for you!

  35. parodie says:

    I was so happy to see your name on the list! I have to admit that after following this blog for a few years (and having LOVED DTWOF when I was young and peeking out of the closet, back in the 90s) it felt like finding out that a friend had won. Or at least a distant acquaintance. So very happy for you, and such a well-deserved honour. Congratulations!

  36. Rebecca (Becky) Rose says:

    Wow Alison, I’ve always thought you were a genius, even before you started drawing women! You’ve inspired me for years and years, ever since we met in East Hall at Oberlin. Thanks for being such an inspiration to lesbians everywhere. Congratulations! From yer old college pal, Becky.

  37. Ginjoint says:

    It’s a day later, and I still feel like crying with happiness. There is justice and goodness in this corner of the universe.

    Cybercita, thanks for posting that link…oh Helen, I wish I would’ve known you.

    Kate L, it’s good to “see” you again. I’m sorry I haven’t been around here lately, but the baby’s keeping me jumping.

    And a new book! 🙂 But 2017! 🙁 The way-yay-ting is the hardest part!

  38. All this AND The Secret to Superhuman Strength? My trike and I can’t wait to find out. Also, again, yayyyyy!!!!!! Oh…. and all!!!!

  39. Kudos! Your work is wonderful and I am very happy for your success! Loved “Fun Home” .. uber congrats! Well deserved!

  40. Joe Code says:

    A hearty congratulations! I was so happy to hear you’d earned it.

  41. […] her blog entry titled “MacWHAAAAAAT ?????” she seems shocked as well as satisfied that she has actually been named one of the 2014 […]

  42. Anne Harvey says:

    Just had a flashback to sitting in the Tiffany diner in Greenwich Village with you eons ago and you were musing about what it meant to be brilliant and was anyone actually brilliant? Well, it looks like you just might qualify…Congratulations! And have a meraviglioso viaggio in Italy.

  43. SDK says:

    YES! YES! YESSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There is justice in the world.

  44. Katrina Attwood says:

    Huge congratulations. I love your art, the mirror you hold up to nature and your wonderful way with words. And you have been a formative influence on so many individual lives – mine included – and the lives of many communities and cultures. Thank you.

  45. Andi O'Conor says:

    Amazing news, Alison! Your work is a gift to all of us, and it’s pretty “genius” of the MacArthur folks to recognize that. And hey, FIVE HUNDRED GRAND. Party down, girl! Enjoy the well-earned spotlight, and all the love and congratulations coming your way. Your success lifts us all up a little.

  46. Dear Allison,
    Congratulations. Your books got me through my fledgling dyke years. I have already thought you were a genius. Apparently I was right! Excited to see what comes of this!
    Denise Knowlton-fangirl.

  47. Congratulations. As a longtime Funny Times reader I am delighted to see you get this totally-deserved recognition.

  48. Bliss says:

    I was thrilled when I read this news. Congratulations. Your work has meant so much to me over the past 25 years and I’m thrilled to see it getting the recognition it deserves. I’m especially glad that you’re getting an award that celebrates your potential rather than your (considerable, wonderful) achievements. I hope this is a freeing vote of confidence in your future creations.

  49. Congratulations!

    The McArthur folks got one right!

  50. JJ says:

    SOOOOO happy for you! It’s amazing the speed we are making progress. You deserve it. Enjoy.

  51. Andrew B says:

    Alison, huge congratulations on the fellowship. Thanks for sharing your elitist bubble with us over the years. Art, writing, and study — civilization — are particularly important when people are getting their heads sawn off. I’m looking forward to more from you.

    Congratulations also on the new book contract. This increasingly stiff jointed exercise junky can’t wait to see what you’ll have to say about it.

    If anybody hasn’t clicked through on Mentor’s (33) link to the NY Times piece, you should. There’s a single panel cartoon there that’s hilarious.

  52. Mentor says:

    [Speaking as an official card-carrying member of the Vermont-based Vast Liberal Conspiracy, I thought I’d point out NPR’s story on AB’s MAF:

    And for Andrew#54, and other interested parties, the I Ching hexagram shown in the cartoon is K’uei, translated as “Polarising” (or “opposition”, “Contrariness” or even “perversion”).

    The auspices seem clear… –Mentor]

  53. Sarah says:

    Long time lurker here, first post:

    Congrats Alison!!!

  54. Linda Brown says:

    Eric would have been so proud of you. He would be planning a party. Crispin would be cooking because God knows we wouldn’t be able to eat what Eric cooked. Through your close friendship with Eric and your long relationship; your long string of holiday cards that Eric revered, he is thinking of you now and is jealous that you won the MacArthur and he didn’t! From Cambridge with wonderful memories of anticipating the next missive from you to him. Linda Brown/Cambridge, MA (and Eric)

  55. AM says:

    Alison-I’ve never commented here before, but have followed your work for years. So awesome!! I still miss having the regular DTWOF strips as I almost feel like I grew up with them, but also love your more recent work. I work in an independent bookstore and proudly have Fun Home on my staff picks shelf. Congratulations again.

  56. Johanna says:

    Shows how slow I am with media, took me five days to find out. MAJOR congratulations! Here from the Northampton days of your life (and beyond)…was it Williams St? with Alissa. “I knew her when…”

    So what’s Sydney going to think when Betsy G. AND her creator get MacArthurs??

  57. LondonBoy says:

    Congratulations! Of course, everyone here already knew you’re a genius, but it’s great that now the rest of the world knows too!

    (Like most other readers, my first thought was of Betsy Gilhooley. There is, however, an important difference: she’s fictional. In real life Betsy would never win, but in real life you did! Enjoy your well-deserved success!)

  58. Heartfelt Congratulations!
    Some day, I hope to hear your answer if a documentary film with one woman talking about herself passes the Bechdel test!

  59. […] Alison Bechdel posted MacWHAAAAAAT???? […]

  60. Kat says:

    Alison, you made coming out easier when I was a questioning queer chick in the early nineties. Our local indie paper ran DTWOF and our local indie bookstore carried the collections. I was in a liberal but mostly white town, feeling torn between being queer and being a woman of color. Reading your work was literally a lifesaver. Many, many congratulations from a fan since 1991.

  61. josie says:

    I’VE enjoyed your work since the 80’s. Found you here thru john bechdel, a friend from Hampshire College. yOU EARNED the award and recognition. thanx for entertaining and educating me.

  62. […] of “the rules.” Nearly 30 years later, these rules are now known as the Bechdel Test and Alison Bechdel has recently been awarded a genius grant (also known as a MacArthur […]

  63. Plum says:

    As soon as I heard the news, this was exactly the strip that came to mind! This, and the one where Sydney calculates what she would spend her money on if she did win a MacArthur. The beauty is, you always knew you would win. The beauty is, you never dreamed you would win. Well, OK. You made us all feel as though you did it all for love. And we love you back.