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Tuber, S. (2013). Are You My Mother?, by P. D. Eastman, New York, NY: Random House, 1960, 21 pp., $4.99. ISBN: 0-679-89047-51959Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 289 pp., $22. ISBN: 0-618-98250-7.. Psychoanal. Psychol., 30(2):339-343.
(2013). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30(2):339-343
Graphic Art Novel Review
Are You My Mother?, by P. D. Eastman, New York, NY: Random House, 1960, 21 pp., $4.99. ISBN: 0-679-89047-51959Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 289 pp., $22. ISBN: 0-618-98250-7.
Review by: Steve Tuber, Ph.D., ABPP
It's difficult to review Alison Bechdel's new graphic memoir, Are you my mother?, without first reviewing the children's classic by the same title. Although Bechdel never explicitly mentions her borrowing of the title, it is achingly clear that her memoir is about the multiple levels of searching she undertakes, internally and externally, in an effort to locate what she and her mother are in relation to one another. The contrast between the journeys of Eastman's intrepid baby bird and Bechdel's excruciating self-portrait are stark and haunting, making their comparison all the more worthwhile.
Eastman, a protege of Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), uses approximately 225 words and a set of delightful illustrations to tell a tale optimally designed for preschoolers, so much so that it has remained a children's bestseller for over 50 years. An unnamed bird, beginning to peck free of its shell, is briefly left by its mother, who goes off in search of food for her about-to-be newborn. The baby pecks out of its shell, immediately notes the absence of its mother and sets forth to find her. Oblivious and undaunted by its inability to fly, the bird falls harmlessly to the ground and begins to walk in search of its mom. Meeting a kitten, hen, dog and cow in quick succession, she asks the titular question and is disappointed each time.
Two remarkable things then occur. First, in a manner that would make Fonagy and his colleagues proud, the bird stops and reviews what has happened on its journey. Mentalizing accomplished, it proceeds to its second remarkable behavior. It states, with utter resolve: “I have a mother, I know I do. I will find her. I will. I WILL” (p. 13).
Left unsaid by Eastman, but more intriguing from a psychodynamic perspective, is how do we understand where the baby bird gets this resolve? It is here that we can readily see why this book has remained so appealing to children. The book stands as the antithesis to the separation/abandonment anxiety so endemic to this age period.
[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]