A portion of students at Duke University are boycotting reading a book assigned to all new students, arguing that the LGBT theme present throughout the graphic novel “compromised” their religious beliefs.
The 2006 book “Fun Home” is an autobiographical novel about author Alison Bechdel’s life, which includes coming to terms with her own homosexuality while growing up with a father who was a closeted gay man.
The book was chosen for students of the class of 2019 to read as a “shared experience.” However, a group of students refused to take part in the assignment, saying the book’s themes of sexual orientation and “graphic visual depictions of sexuality” went against their religious beliefs.
“I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” student Brian Grasso wrote in a post to fellow students on Facebook.
Grasso also wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post on the topic, saying that he could not read a book that portrayed “cartoon drawings of a woman masturbating and multiple women engaging in oral sex.” He went on to say that he was not against LGBT-themed books in general, but that “in the Bible, Jesus forbids his followers from exposing themselves to anything pornographic.”
Duke Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations Michael Schoenfeld maintains that the book, which was chosen by a panel of students and staff members, was assigned to students to be completed on a voluntary basis, writes Josh Feldman for Mediaite.
“Fun Home was ultimately chosen because it is a unique and moving book that transcends genres and explores issues that students are likely to confront,” Mr Schoenfeld told the Daily Dot website. But he added that “with a class of 1,750 new students from around the world, it would be impossible to find a single book that that did not challenge someone’s way of thinking”.
The book has been the subject of controversy in schools across the country, where in several cases it has faced censorship. In 2013, a conservative group protested the inclusion of the book on the reading list for South Carolina’s College of Charleston, and 2008 found students in Utah seeking to have the book removed from an English class, reports Todd Leopold for CNN.
“Fun Home” was turned into a Tony-winning Broadway musical. Bechdel is also known for the comic “Dykes to Watch Out For” and the “Bechdel test,” pertaining to the intelligence of women in movie roles. She has also won a MacArthur “Genius” Award.