Some freshmen students at Duke University are protesting the assignment of Fun Home, claiming reading it would violate their Christian beliefs.
Fun Home is an award-winning, New York Times best-selling graphic novel and memoir that was adapted for the theatre and recently won five Tonys, including the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical. The book and the Broadway show both deal with the very personal, challenging, and emotional issues of its author, Alison Bechdel, including growing up, discovering she is a lesbian, and learning her father, who commits suicide, was gay.
The book was assigned to incoming Duke University freshmen as part of their summer reading list, but as Claire Ballentine at The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper, reports, several Christian students strongly objected to the book and refused to read it, citing their deeply-held religious beliefs.
“I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” Brian Grasso wrote on the Duke University Class of 2019 Facebook page, a closed group. He cited its “graphic visual depictions of sexuality,” as part of his reason. “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind,” he added. “It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.”
“There is so much pressure on Duke students, and they want so badly to fit in,” Grasso observed. “But at the end of the day, we don’t have to read the book.”
Grasso was not alone in his protest.
“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,” Jeffrey Wubbenhorst wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
Freshman Elizabeth Snyder-Mounts also objected, writing, “I thought to myself, ‘What kind of school am I going to?’”
Not all the students objected to being exposed to the critically acclaimed book.
“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,” freshman Marivi Howell-Arza wrote.
Duke, established in 1838, is a nonsectarian, secular, private university in North Carolina that has produced eight Nobel laureates.