2017 marks the 15th anniversary of Santa Monica Public Library’s annual community reading program Santa Monica Reads. Tremendously popular with local residents and visitors, the program invites everyone to read and talk about the sa.me book and its themes in book discussions and special events held throughout the city.
The Library is pleased to announce “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel as the 2017 selection. This year’s program runs from February 25 through March 30.
Every year, the Santa Monica Reads selection committee goes through the list of book titles suggested by community members to choose the next year’s book, and one thing committee members seem to enjoy is selecting something “new,” something that we haven’t done before. In the past that newness factor has usually meant a novel’s topics or themes, but this year we’re really emphasizing the “new.”
Not only are we reading nonfiction for the first time, but we’re reading a format that will be new to many – the graphic memoir. A subset of the imperfectly named genre known as “graphic novels,” the graphic memoir is a work of biography that employs not only words, but also pictures to tell its story.
The titular setting of Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” is the Bechdel Funeral Home in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania, where the artist and author grew up with her parents and two brothers. The comics-format memoir is a finely-honed exploration of self, as the author circles her youthful story and her complicated relationship with her enigmatic father, carefully drilling down to find the core truth of her personal identity. A pioneering work, the book broke ground across many of the genres it straddled – personal memoir, comic arts, coming-of-age tale, coming-out story, narrative nonfiction, and family dra.ma. Released in 2006, “Fun Home” beca.me a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was nominated for several other awards, including three Eisner Awards, one of which it won. In 2015, “Fun Home” was adapted into a Tony award-winning stage musical. Coincidentally, the Ahmanson Theatre’s production of “Fun Home: The Musical” runs concurrently with the Santa Monica Reads program.
Free copies of “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” as well as a resource guide that provides more information on the book, its author and upcoming Santa Monica Reads events, will be available at all Santa Monica Public Library locations beginning Wednesday, January 25, and until supplies last. Santa Monica Reads is sponsored by the Santa Monica Public Library and the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library, with additional support from other community, educational and business partners.
The program is offering a vast array of associated free events:
An Afternoon with Alison Bechdel – Author Alison Bechdel discusses Fun Home and her other work, her storytelling process, and her plans for the future. A book sale and signing follows. Saturday, February 25 at 2 p.m. | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Scott McCloud: Comics and the Art of Visual Communication – American cartoonist and comics theorist Scott McCloud (“Understanding Comics,” “The Sculptor”) offers a fast-moving lecture on comics, visual communication, and how we learn through images. A book sale and signing follows. Sunday, February 26 at 2 p.m. | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Movie: “Persepolis” (2007) – Marjane Satrapi co-directed this film adaptation of her graphic memoir depicting her life growing up during and after Iran’s Isla.mic revolution. In Farsi, German and French, with English subtitles. (96 min.) Tuesday, February 28 at 7 p.m, Montana Avenue Branch, 1704 Montana Ave.
Cartoon Your Story Workshop Series – Artist and onetime illustrator for The Simpsons and King of the Hill Carlos Nieto III leads a four-week workshop teaching attendees the basics of telling their story in a graphical format. Fridays, March 3, 10, 17 and 24 at 3:30 p.m | Pico Branch Library, The Annex, 2201 Pico Blvd.
The Big Kids’ Table: Comics Craft – Create a unique picture fra.me with upcycled comic book art. All materials provided. Wednesday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m | Main Library, Multipurpose Room, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
The Cartoon Self with Charles Hatfield – Fun Home carries on the tradition of autobiographical comics or graphic memoir. Join CSUN Professor Charles Hatfield for an illustrated talk about the roots and branches of this burgeoning genre. Saturday, March 11 at 2 p.m | Main Library, MLK Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Movie Musical: “Annie” (1982) – Musical based on the legendary comic strip, Little Orphan Annie. (127 min.) Tuesday, March 21 at 3 p.m | Main Library, MLK Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Women to Watch Out For Panel – An amazing group of women comics writers and illustrators – Cecil Castellucci (“Shade the Changing Girl,” “The Plain Janes”), Joelle Jones (“Lady Killer,” “Super Girl”), Irene Koh (“Legend of Korra”), Sarah Kuhn (“Fresh Romance,” “Heroine Complex”), and Jen Wang (“For the Win,” “Koko Be Good”) – join us for a discussion panel. A book sale and signing follows. Saturday, March 25 at 1p.m | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
The Bechdel-Wallace Test/Women in Film Panel – A panel of women filmmakers – writer/producer Patricia Resnick (“9 to 5,” “Mad Men”), writer/director Catherine Michon (“Muffin Top: A Love Story,” “A Dog’s Purpose”), actress Marissa Jaret Winokur (“Hairspray”), and producer J.D. Disalvatore (“Shelter,” “Elena Undone”) – discuss the “Bechdel-Wallace Test” and its implications for the representation of women, both onscreen and off. Saturday, March 25 at 3:30 p.m | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica Reads book discussions are hosted by trained discussion facilitators and are free and open to the public. Discussion participants are encouraged to share their thoughts about this year’s book selection and its themes, or are welcome to simply listen and learn more about the book.