Alison Bechdel's memoir 'Fun Home' runs into trouble with the South Carolina House of Representatives

After the College of Charleston assigned the graphic memoir 'Fun Home' as summer reading, members of the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to cut funding to the school. The budget will be decided on by the general assembly in March.

By , Staff Writer

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    'Fun Home' is by Alison Bechdel.
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After South Carolina school the College of Charleston assigned Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir “Fun Home” to students, members of the South Carolina House of Representatives cut funding to the university because of the depiction of same-sex relationships in “Fun Home.”

The College of Charleston had put “Fun Home” on a compilation of summer reading titles for incoming freshmen. The South Carolina House of Representatives cut funding to both the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate, which also assigned a book with similar themes. The House cut $70,000 in total ($52,000 from the College of Charleston, according to local newspaper the Post and Courier).

The budget-writing committee took the funds away from the schools but the money could be put back when the entire House of Representatives reviews the budget on March 10, according to the Post and Courier. According to the newspaper, the $52,000 is the price tag of the summer reading program. According to the Washington Post, the College of Charleston received a little over $19 million in state money in 2013.

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Representative Garry Smith told the Post and Courier that he doesn’t believe the memoir is introducing themes for scholarly consideration.

“It goes beyond the pale of academic debate,” he said. "It graphically shows lesbian acts.”

He thinks the College of Charleston is “promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle” and says students should have been supplied with an alternative to “Fun Home.”

Bechdel released a statement to Publishers Weekly about the controversy.

“I'm very grateful to the people who taught my book at the College of Charleston,” the author said. “It was brave of them to do that given the conservative pressures they're apparently under. I made a visit to the school last fall for which they also took some flak, but to their great credit they didn't back down. It's sad and absurd that the College of Charleston is facing a funding cut for teaching my book – a book which is after all about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people's lives.”

Christopher Korey, a professor at the College of Charleston and the head of the summer reading program, told the Post and Courier that the school committee realized some might have problems with “Fun Home.”

“But the book asks important questions about family, identity, and the transition to adulthood,” he said. “These are important questions for all college students…. I'm concerned that some members of the (L)egislature believe their duties include deciding what books should and should not be taught in a college classroom ... I believe that 18-year-olds benefit directly from reading and discussing difficult topics in their courses.”

Meanwhile, College of Charleston president P. George Benson has issued a statement saying that, "Any legislative attempt to tie institutional funding to what books are taught, or who teaches them, threatens the credibility and reputation of all South Carolina public universities."

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