Graphic Novelist Alison Bechdel Pushes Gender and Genres

Creator of comic strip ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’ visits RIT Dec. 2

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Alison Bechdel has earned national recognition for her groundbreaking graphic fiction, including the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, one of the first ongoing representations of lesbians in popular culture. An excerpt from Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is shown.

Award-winning graphic artist Alison Bechdel broke new ground and influenced a generation of authors, activists and ordinary citizens with her nationally syndicated comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which ran from 1983 to 2008 and was one of the earliest ongoing representations of lesbians in popular culture.

Bechdel will discuss her artistic process and the use of graphic narrative during the talk “Drawing Words, Reading Pictures” at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 in the Ingle Auditorium at Rochester Institute of Technology. The free public lecture, sponsored by the Caroline Werner Gannett Project’s “Visionaries in Motion IV” lecture series, includes a presentation of her work and will be followed by a reception and book signing.

Dykes to Watch Out For chronicled the lives of a group of friends living in a medium-sized American city and combined soap-opera story lines with social commentary on the treatment of gay men and lesbians in America.

The strip ran in numerous newspapers throughout the country and has been anthologized in multiple volumes, including The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, released in 2008. It was named “one of the greatest hits of the Twentieth Century” by the alternative magazine The Utne Reader.

Bechdel has also written for The New York Times, Ms. and Slate and published the graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in 2006. The book made The New York Times bestseller list, was named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by Time magazine and won the 2007 Stonewall Book Award for Nonfiction.

The Gannett Project’s Visionaries in Motion series explores new connections across technologies, social sciences and humanities, increasing opportunities for interdisciplinary understanding and collaboration both on campus and in the Greater Rochester community. In 2009, the series was selected as City newspaper’s Critics’ Pick for “Best Lecture Series in Rochester.”