My Tucson trip

June 1st, 2006 | Uncategorized


I’m posting from LaGuardia airport, while I wait for my third flight of the day to take me back to VT. I have 15 minutes before boarding. I just wanted to say that I had a really great time in Tucson. It was totally worth all the travel hassles. First of all, I got there in time to swim in the pool. I haven’t been swimming in I don’t know how many years.

And then an astonishingly large and enthusiastic crowd came to my talk at the library. I was braced for a similar showing to the one I got at the Dallas Public Library last October. Ten people came to that, and seven of them were librarians. But there was a whole mess of people last night in Tucson. I did a two part presentation–first I talked about Dykes to Watch Out For, then I read from Fun Home. It was the first time I’ve done a public reading from Fun Home, and I was surprised by its somber tone. But people really seemed to like it. Here I am signing books after.
Tucson signing

21 Responses to “My Tucson trip”

  1. SF Reader says:

    Alison, I hope you are reading the rave reviews on the webpage for Fun Home.

  2. Deb says:

    Nice pool picture. I understand traveling! Just got in from Denver a couple of days ago visiting my sister. Flying there is like riding a roller coaster through a thunderstorm! Glad you finally get to spend some time at home. The book is great and have them all!!!!!! Take care.

  3. Deborah says:

    What is it like reading from a graphic novel?
    Do you have the images projected in a slide show, or do you just focus on the text.
    Oops, that was a totally “Sydney” style question esp. given the most recent episode.
    But I still want to know ….

  4. Ruth says:

    What th- ? Is that shirt you’re wearing some color other than black?!

  5. Tom Jensen says:

    A big joy to hear and see you here in Tucson, thank you for… you. It’s not obvious, but Tucson is one of the less fascist towns in the red zone; it’s one of the places the Sanctuary Movement came from, and Earth First!, and is home to the Center for Biological Diversity and Humane Borders, a lot of good people, many of whom were there in the audience. I hope you get to come back soon, though I’d recommend a winter visit, it was 105F today. Fun Home is scarily great, the kind of book in which one approches the last pages with reluctance, wanting it not to end. Thank you!

  6. Jim Ru says:

    Welcome to Tucson. And thanks for signing my sketch book.

    I wish I had been in Dallas. I’d have loved to sit down over desert and show you the whole sketch book and talk about pens, ink and art.

    We often hear about gay and lesbian actors and musicians, but it’s rare for us queer artists to make an impact on culture these days.

    You did it! You bring hope where before there was jaded cynicism. How will I live with that?!

    I think your new book will probably bring you much fame and fortune. It’s brilliant.

    Take care of your inner Mo on this part of the journey.

    I would like to add a comment about something you said. You said you wanted to be more universal. Some in the audience groaned when they heard that, as did I.

    Ellen Degeneres plays that “universal” card, as do a lot of gay and lesbian actors and musicians. It’s come to mean you’ll duck into the closet whenever success gets in the way of being out.

    It’s also come to mean that some people assume that everyone knows they’re queer, so why bother bringing it up anymore.


    You also said something about the importance of the marriage issue.

    I think civil unions are important, but I also think smashing the state and the family has a valuable role in our lives.

    We, gays and lesbians, do live a different paradigm. Mo is right in her anger. There is life beyond the rigid structures of heterosexist, consumer breeding society. Somewhere that got lost. But I think it’s time to find it again because things arent’ going so well for us in fascist USA and on the trashed Earth.

    As the population of the planet increases at three additional people per second, I think gays and lesbians have a valuable insight into alternative relationships, civil rights issues and environmental perspective.

    Civil unions is a great phrase. It can expand to include all manner of creative relationships, and not just the twosome, living in the suburb variety.

    That phrase opens up discussion about civility and legal unions between people.

    Let’s go there!

    As for marriage and gays in the military….groan again. Groan loudly. Groan til it hurts!

    Who set THAT agenda?!!

    Well, just some thoughts. My partner, (civil unionist?,) and I would love to move to Vermont.

    In the meantime, keep showing queer culture to the world. There is more to us that The L Word, Queer Eye and Brokeback Mountain stereotypes.

    Big hug,

    Jim Ru

  7. elisa says:

    I’ve loved your work ever since I picked it up as a lonely, culture-deprived lesbian over 10 years ago. I’m so thrilled to see you meeting with bigger success!

    I do not fear a more “universal” Alison Bechdel. Your work is great. Let more people soak up the perspective of a lesbian feminist cartooning nerd, the more the merrier.

  8. Heather says:

    I really enjoyed this week’s episode. Sydney has suchj a unique was oiof indicating she’s doesn’t want to talk.
    I also love Fun Home. The scene with your dad in the luncheonette made me cry. I had my own monments meeting my first passing woman and knowing that’s what I wanted…

  9. Jim Ru says:

    My point about “universal” has more to do with what many lesbians and gay men do along the way to achieve success by attempting “universality.”

    For instance, k d lang uses that argument. Everyone knows she’s a lesbian so she doesn’t have to use the pronouns to indicate gender. Right? The song is universal.

    Melissa Etheridge. Yes I am! Uh, really? How can we tell? Not by any song I’ve heard of hers. They are all “universal.”

    And the biggest user of ‘universal’ junk… Ellen. In and out Ellen. Everyone KNOWS she’s a lesbian so why should she even mention anything about it? Or as she says, “I can’t imagine it coming up in any conversation I might have with a guest.”

    Yet, she talks a lot about the relationships of her hetero guests.

    I could list many others. And no they are not all lesbians, I just used them as an example since Allison is a dyke.

    “Universal” has become a sort of code word among the queer successful that says, “Don’t expect me to risk this success over being queer. If I must, I will simply claim my lack of focus as an attempt at universality.”

    This has done more to water down lesbian and gay rights than any other thing I can think of. (And no I’m not trashing you Allison, since you have not in any way done this. But you did mention thinking abot doing it, and that’s why lots of people groaned, I think.)

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Ellen did mention her life, her relationships, civil rights, and sexuality on her show? Wow, what a concept. A lesbian on television who isn’t neutered into a kindergarten teacher or secretly wanting to have sex with a man!

    If Ellen can take the audience to Cinco De Mayo celebrations, why not to the Pride Celebrations?

    I will tell you why. Her sponsors would have a fucking shit fit!

    Middle America is NOT ready for THAT!!!! WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!!!???

    Gawd, it’s enough to make anyone groan…. loudly.

    So yes, brava on your success Allison. As a fellow artist I am in awe of you being so out and so successful. But, that universal thing is a slippery slope my dear. I think what we we’re trying to convey to you is concern.

    They will hang lots of money and fame in front of your face…. if only you tone down that dyke thing and make it more universal.

    Ignore that. Crank it up. Build your success on the foundations of what you’ve already accomplished being totally out, discussing sex, civil rights, the environment and all the rest.

    Oh, and if you want to see alternatives to the universalists in music… check out Queer Music Heritage online. More and more queer musicians see the trap of universal approaches and make their art out, loud and proud. Success shows up anyway for some of them. Imagine that?!

    Or go to Queer Arts Resources. Or the Queer Cultural Center.

    We can make art without having to think about hetero consumer society. We are more than a commodity. We used to be the cultural and spiritual leaders of our tribes. It’s time to take that back, because truly, time is running out on this trashed planet.

    Wars for diminished resources. Population run amuck. Environmental mayhem. Fascists spreading violence in the name of their great hetero sky gods. Any reading of the current situation shows us that the hetero consumer model just does not work. We are in deep shit on this planet as a species. (Hurricane season began a couple of days ago. Hold onto your fuckin FICA.)

    Allison’s characters provide the dialogue which could show a way out for humanity. Out queer artist voices often present creative alternatives to the usual heterosexist dogma. Check out those web sites to see what I mean.

    We just don’t want to lose you Allison. Again, keep Mo close on this part of your journey.

    Queer love, sex, civil rights and environmental care to you all,

    Jim Ru

  10. Jim Ru says:

    oops I meant to say hold onto your fucking FEMA! Well, in any case, hold onto to something. Water is rising. Glaciers are melting. Permafrost is gone. And if you live in Florida, you might consider a five month vacation right about now.

    Stop the consuming breeding masses!

    Spay and neuter your heterosexuals! ( A little art project of my own to share with you all.)

  11. atlatl says:

    well. okay, but maybe what she meant by being “universal” is the very idea of
    being out, queer, proud, etc. AND STILL accepted by the mainstream. I can’t
    possibly begin to speculate on what AB’s real intentions and feelings are. Nor
    could anyone, I imagine, but there’s always an opportunity to just ask.

    Allison, you have been a solace + inspiration to me for 20 years. And FH was
    amazing. totally amazing. I read the entire thing in one day, and I carry the
    story and images around in my soul still. Thank you.

  12. Amy says:

    I bought Fun Home two days ago and devoured it. It’s a wonderful book. I purchased it A Room of One’s Own, the Madison WI feminist bookstore, at which time I found out you would be there speaking in July, and that I had priority for a ticket since I bought the book there. Hooray! Congrats again. You did a magnificent job with it!

    Madison, WI

  13. Amy says:

    I don’t think any of the points about “universality” (re Ellen, Melissa, etc) that seem to upset you so much apply to Alison Bechdel. She’s way out of the closet, and even moreso with this book, which will meet even wider circulation than Dykes to Watch Out For. She made that choice long ago, and there seems to be no going back in this life, nor does she seem to be succombing to any other pressure to conform that I can discern. So I don’t think any of your gripes apply. However, even if they did, I really support Alison in choosing her own path as an artist. That is what we all have been fighting for all these years – the chance for more of us to be able to become our own selves, regardless of whom or how we love. Which is one of the many aspects of Fun Home I love.

    Fun Home speaks about the pain of estrangement from a parent, and the hurts that get passed through the generations when people are not able to explore and grow into their full selves. These are universal stories deeply enmeshed in the human experience. This is not to say that DTWOF is not universal – only that Fun Home is able to take certain universal themes to an even more profound level, and with compassion and humor. Kudos to you, Alison!

    Amy – Madison, WI

  14. Suzananonymous says:

    Hang it up already, Mr. Ru. Repetition does not make statements true. (LOL)

  15. kate says:

    looks like the Royal Liz to me!

  16. Ed says:

    You’ll all be happy to know that Alison has another page devoted to her in this week’s EW! They must really love her. It’s in the summer reading section and has another big color photo and a few short paragraphs about Alison and the making of the book. This is great.

  17. Rachel says:

    Alison, Thank you for visiting Tucson! It’s rare that we get decent events booked in town, most of them require travel to Phoenix.
    I was planning on creating a graphic novel about my experiences of being lesbian and in the military before I saw your presentation. I had some apprehensions about what to share, and what might be too much to share. After reading Fun Home, I have realized that these stories need to be told, as ugly and brutally honest as possible. Some of the things that were in Fun Home, and I thought “gosh, I’d never share that,” were the exact same things that I went through as a young person.
    I’d like to praise you, and thank you, for your bravery and inspiration.

  18. Jim Ru says:

    I too support a person’s right to express themselves any way they choose. I never said Allison succumbed to the pressures of corporate greed.

    I was just bringing up a subject for discussion beyond the usual gushing. Must get tiring being famous.

    I have no idea how people who gather fame do it. So many sychophants, so little time.

    Oh and repetition does make things true! What country have you been living in for the past eight years? Geez. Don’t you watch Fox news? I’ll bet you’re one of those terrorists.

    Allison if you read this, no insult intended. On bended knee I beg the forgiveness of all who were offended, now and throughout eternity. I realize that as an American citizen it is my duty not to offend anyone perchance I am might give aid to the enemy. Please, everyone forgive me. I am a terrible person and not a good citizen. I will report to Guantamamo in the morning and turn myself in.

    Okay that being said…

    There is this interesting moment in history in Japan when art had great power. The Heien period. Aesthetics determined your place in society and your postion in the court. Men and women could rise equally simply by being aesthetically powerful artists.

    During this period great women poets flourished, such as Izumi Shikibu and Ono No Komachi. Also, Sei Shonagon lived during this time.

    Sexuality and sexual relations had a wide range of possibilities beyond the financial constraints of arranged marriages. Women and men took on many lovers. (Homosexuality was not only common, but considered quite sacred in the monasteries and courts.)

    These affairs of the heart and body were always wrapped in the aesthetics of art, especially poetry, music and visual displays.

    How you approached a person and whether they accepted your advances depended entirely on how well you could create an aesthically relevant and beautiful display of your intentions. If accepted, the entire relationship was honored with reciprocal creativity, and even ended with aesthetic ritual.

    Where you stood in society and your work place depended on how well you could create art. How you loved and how often you got sex had a lot to do with your ability to create art.

    Thus, art was not a commodity to be sold but a device to express your intentions, and to guide another person through a relationship with you, be it work, play, sex or love. How well you could express your emotions using art determined how much work, play, sex and love you got in life.

    For instance, if you sent a perspective lover flowers without a poem, it was a failed statement. How could a person know the beauty of the flowers without knowing the thoughts of the person who sent them?

    In today’s society, people create art as commodity. You make things. You sell things. You get paid for it. We are not usually wondering if the people who accepted our aesthetic advances want to have a relationship with us beyond giving us money for our products.

    It’s nice to hear from fans who enjoy our artwork. It’s nice to know people are buying our stuff. But beyond that, making art as part of a social dance, expecting art in return, just does not have a place. Using art as a method of emotional guidance for intimate and social contracts… well, it’s just not done. (Okay, we have all those greeting cards and you can have flowers sent via FTD, but is it enough, I ask you?)

    However, we also live in a fascist, heterosexist, narrowly defined, rigid consumer society which uses military power to gather resources, aesthetics be damned. Sexuality tries to flee the oppression. Love makes noble attempts at escaping the state defined dogmas. Gender wants desperately to be free, but last I checked was still being held prisoner by Rupert Murdoch. The four seasons and the environment, so honored by the Japanese of this period, have gone quite mad from chemical poisoning.

    I am disheartened. I am angry. But, hey, if someone came to me and said, just tone down the gay thing and we’ll give you a few million dollars, I don’t know if I could resist the deal. I hope to think I would, but who knows?

    If Allison ever puts out a book titled, “Eccentric Women to Watch Out For,” I guess we’ll know she was at the crossroads and made the deal. Until then, my comments were meant as guidance from an old gay man who’s seen great talent trashed by corporate greed over and again.

    It was meant from concern not attack, obviously. And also boredom.

    Does anyone discuss the issues Allison herself brings up in her books, or are we all just relegated to fandome in this consumer society? Is it even possible to use the internet for intelligent, aesthetic discussion, or is it all just a bunch of knee jerk reactions to perceived threat?

    We sit alone at our screens, digital images floating by. This is what passes for aesthetic relationships. And we wonder how the environment and war and civil rights got so bad?

    I keep hearing young gays and lesbians tell me that civil rights issues are passe in the community because, you know, like we have gays on television and stuff. And the interent has all kinds of gay and lesbian information.

    Allison, it was just an attempt to open the conversation up beyond the usual. We’re being strangled by the internet, by corporate control, and by our unwillingness to talk outside the box of both.

    You one character gave up his car. You said that’s like heresy in this society.

    Gays and lesbians need to give up the digital junk. Our power rested firmly in our ability to interact aesthetically, personally, sexually and in love with one another….face to face.

    Walk out your door.

    Cherry blossoms fall
    Great winds rise upon oceans
    Can you show your love?

    Heat on my shoulders
    fills the distance between us
    you breath the same air

    Breath in and breath out
    Are birds singing where you are?
    Or is it all war?

    My heart is beating
    the garden needs watering
    my feet in the dirt

    He speaks of freedom
    and wants me to sleep with him
    How much is that worth?

    Let’s renga… You show me your Pillow Book and I’ll show you mine.

    Jim Ru

  19. Half a Beaner says:

    I can’t believe I missed your visit in Tucson! Arrrrgggghhhhh!!!!! I LOVE reading ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’ and I would have really liked to have heard you speak about the strip and ‘Fun Home’. CRAP! Almost nothing this exciting happens in Tucson and I freaking missed it!

  20. Evie Douglas says:

    When are you coming to Michigan?….My birthday is tomorrow…Is that too soon for you?…………I will be getting your book……….How about coming to a bar here that just opened called, “In The Mix”……that would be great…the librarians will probably have a couple of drinks so the crowd will be hopping………..LOL

  21. Suzanonymous says:

    Mr. Ru, my point was your comments are just too long and repetitive. If other people are like me, they are not reading all the way through, certainly not at this point. You’re wasting your.. finger muscles. Maybe make a web page and point any interested people there.