Intermediate Fangirling, or How I Took the Bookmobile to Portland to Meet Alison Bechdel

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Lily Disneyland Excitement

I love book tours. I love book tours like some people love March Madness and the World Series. Book tours connect readers and writers for the second time. The reunion of writer and reader reminds both players of the humanity, the sacredness of reading and writing. I get sentimental. I also get crazy like a fangirl.

I wrote a while back about fangirlism and meeting one of my lady heros, Rachel Maddow, and I wanted to revisit the subject. Book tours, like album release tours, are prime opportunities for fangirls. They are a chance to obsess over past publications, to pre-order books and merchandise, to wait in line with other fangirls while one-upping each other in obscure trivia and eye-rolling statements-as-questions during the Q and A.

 

Alison Bechdel, subject to her own art

I offer myself as a case study in book tour fangirl madness. Last Wednesday I got the chance to meet my one of my favorite authors of all time--graphic memoirist, Alison Bechdel. Bechdel is the author of the long-running “alternative’ comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and the acclaimed and bestselling graphic memoir Fun Home. Her second graphic memoir, Are You My Mother? was released earlier this month, and I’ve been hot on the book tour trail. I saw Bechdel when she was in San Francisco last Wednesday and again over the the weekend in Portland.

 

Be Prepared


fangirl stuffs organized neatly

Bechdel Organized Neatly

 

The first thing you should know: I like to prepare for book releases. I do the equivalent of reading all the previous Harry Potter books before the next one comes out. I have Fun Home, of course. I also bought Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics, a book of criticism by Hillary Chute, an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Chicago. The book features analysis of notable works of graphic non-fiction created by women. Graphic Women features an incredible (to the degree that I might start using “Chutian” as an adjective) reading of Bechdel’s Fun Home. I’ve also gathered the New York Times Book Review and Judith Thurman’s fantastic review of Are You My Mother from The New Yorker.  (To access the review, you can bypass The New Yorker’s paywall using the the library’s EBSCO database.)

A few months ago, I also set up a Google Alert for relevant reviews of Are You My Mother. This has been useful in keeping up with the buzz during the book’s release. There are also twitter and tumblr hashtags, more to sift through, but it’s good fangirl fun.

 

Book Tour Part I

 

alison bechdel in san francisco

Alison at Booksmith, San Francisco

I saw Alison first at her book signing and presentation in San Francisco. We approached Booksmith at the same time, from different directions. My first thought, "Wow! She looks just like her illustration of the DTWOF character, Mo." My second thought:

 

homer awkward hide

 

Alison Book Tour Part II

 

road trip map

From Marin to Portland in a day

 

My next stop as a book tour groupie was Portland! I brought along the Marin County Free Library bookmobile. The bookmobile is a frequent traveler--see its Flickr photos here.

 

Ashland Public Library

The bookmobile and I stopped in Ashland, OR for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Ashland Public Library.

 

Powells

We crashed in on first edition signed James Joyce. Powell's rare book room.


Me and Alison

Me holding Are You My Mother? with Alison holding our beloved bookmobile.

 

Portland was like a dream. Afterward, Alison flew back to Chicago to resume a position as co-instructor (with Dr. Chute) for a course called "Lines of Transmission: Comics and Autobiography" at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago. She'll enjoy the next year as a Guggenheim fellow. And my Bechdel fangirl tour is complete--until her next book.

 

so frickin excited

 

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