Duke Freshmen Refuse to Read Graphic Novel on Sexual Identity

Say Alison Bechdel's 'Fun Home' goes against personal, religious beliefs
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2015 12:24 PM CDT
Duke Freshmen Refuse to Read Graphic Novel on Sexual Identity
In this Sept. 2, 2014, photo provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, cartoonist memoirist Alison Bechdel poses in her studio at the castle of Civitella Ranieri in central Italy.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Riccardo De Luca)

Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, a "family tragicomic," is a graphic memoir about the cartoonist's relationship with her distant father growing up and her coming of age as she grappled with her sexual identity. But although the committee tasked with giving incoming freshmen at Duke University a summer reading assignment knew the Bechdel book would be a "contentious" choice, some students have refused to read it altogether, the Duke Chronicle reports. "Because of the graphic visual depictions of sexuality … I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it," student Brian Grasso wrote in a July 26 post on the Class of 2019 Facebook page. Others say they may have consented to read about the topics in the novel if they weren't presented in a graphic format.

"The nature of Fun Home means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature," another freshman wrote in an email to the Chronicle. Grasso, who mentions both Christian and non-Christian students privately messaged him to thank him for speaking up, tells the paper he chose to post his thoughts on Facebook so others with similar moral stances wouldn't feel alone. "Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind," he says. "It was like Duke didn't know we existed." The co-chair of the book selection committee says the debate spurred by Grasso's post has been "very respectful and considerate," with other students backing the book choice. "Reading the book will allow you to open your mind to a new perspective and examine a way of life and thinking with which you are unfamiliar," another freshman commented on Grasso's post. (Here's what the president is reading this summer.)

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