The cartoonist creator of ‘Dykes to Watch Out For,’ graphic memoirist, and originator of the ‘Bechdel Test’ for movies, has been awarded a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant. We celebrate why.

In her charming, illuminating video accepting her $625,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” alongside 20 others, the cartoonist Alison Bechdel—famous for her strip Dykes to Watch Out For and more recently her graphic (in both senses of that word) family memoirs—said: “When I got the call from MacArthur Foundation, I thought I was kind of faint. It was crazy. It was like someone had almost hit me, like a physical blow. I feel I have been in a state of shock.
“I think getting this kind of recognition…I can feel it already, like, changing my life. I’m having to adjust to the fact that this has happened—therefore I must be doing something worthwhile. To have that kind of confidence put into my work is a huge gift, and I am going to work very, very hard to live up to those expectations.”
The award caps a professionally golden period for the 54-year-old Bechdel. Her much-acclaimed 2006 memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which traced her own sexuality alongside her relationship with her father, Bruce—who was secretly gay, and who later, she believes, committed suicide after being hit by a truck—was made into a prize-winning, much-lauded musical, which ran at New York’s Public Theater late last year into early this year.