Home Columns Kibbles 'n' Bits Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 8/25/15: Duke students object to reading Fun Home

Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 8/25/15: Duke students object to reading Fun Home

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§ Once again, Alison Bechdel’s award winning graphic novel Fun Home is at the center of a Carolina college controversy. The book has been assigned as freshman summer reading for Duke University’s Class of 2019, but some Christian students are objecting:

“I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” Grasso wrote in the post.
Many first-year students responded to the post, expressing their thoughts on Grasso’s discomfort with the novel. Some defended the book’s images as having literary value and said that the book could broaden students’ viewpoints.
“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,” wrote freshman Marivi Howell-Arza.
However, several freshmen agreed with Grasso that the novel’s images conflicted with their beliefs. Freshman Bianca D’Souza said that while the novel discussed important topics, she did not find the sexual interactions appropriate and could not bring herself to view the images depicting nudity.
Freshman Jeffrey Wubbenhorst based his decision not to read the book on its graphic novel format.


In a statement to The Daily Dot, Duke’s Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations, Michael Schoenfeld, wrote:

The summer reading is entirely voluntary — it is not a requirement, nor is there a grade or record of any student’s participation.  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.  We understand and respect that, but also hope that students will begin their time at Duke with open minds and a willingness to explore new [sic]


Bechdel’s book was previously the subject of a similar controversy in SOUTH Carolina, when the SC House of Representatives cut funding to the College of Charleston when the book was assigned to freshmen there. The controversy got a lot of attention and the cast of the Fun Home musical even put on a special performance as a fundraiser for the college.

In case you haven’t read this wonderful book, it’s NOT pornography. There is some nudity and discussion of sex and one brief sex scene, all in the service of the story of Bechdel’s coming out and her father’s closeted death. Reading the book is voluntary, but this whole not being exposed to scary ideas thing is getting old.

§ MEANWHILE, Van Jensen and Jeff Parker talk about making comics, and I can’t imagine two more delightful tour guides.

§ Yesterday The Beat had news of The Well by Jake Wyatt and F. Choo, a 2016 book from First Second, but the house also announced a new book by Jen Wang (Koko Be Good and In Real Life)

The Prince and the Dressmaker is about a young 19th Century prince named Sebastian who secretly loves to wear dresses. He hires an ambitious young seamstress named Frances to make dresses for him and as their collaboration grows, so do their feelings for one another. Sebastian and Frances must find a way to balance their inner desires with the strict expectations of the royal family – or risk exposing Sebastian’s secret to the world.


Much more tasty art in the link!

§ Area man has an attic full of comics!

§ This clickbait piece called 5 Greatest Single Scenes in Comic Book Films made me click but I don’t even remember two of them. I admit the Doc Ock/Spidey fight scene is great, but so is the upside down kiss, and Superman and Lois’s first date in Superman I. If I had to pick a great action scene, I liked that one from Winter Soldier where Nick Fury had to talk to his car. That was cool.

§ Roz Chast had a victory lap of immense proportions in 2014 for her amazing Can’t Wa Talk about Something More Pleasant. and she’s not done yet! She’s one of three finalists for Thurber Prize for American Humor, a first!

Nearly 20 years after its founding, the all-male winners’ circle for the Thurber Prize for American Humor is finally changing.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, actress-writer Annabelle Gurwitch and novelist Julie Schumacher were the finalists announced Monday by organizers of the $5,000 prize. Chast was cited for her graphic memoir about her parents, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” Gurwitch was included for her essay collection “I See You Made An Effort.” Schumacher was nominated for the academic satire, told in letters, called “Dear Committee Members.” “The finalists share more than their gender in common — they are also all above the age of 50,” said awards judge Sloane Crosley, whose book of essays “I Was Told There’d Be Cake” was a finalist in 2009.


Anyone who has witnessed the biting wit of a woman over 50 knows this honor is long overdue.

§ Joe Illidge looks at the current crop of black, teenage female heroines from Rocket to Princeless and more. Seriously, books about teen heroines are not hard to find.

§ And on a slightly similar note, the Guardian presents Kate Beaton’s top 10 warrior princesses: from Elizabeth I to Boudicca , and I guarantee you will learn something from this piece.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The primary goal of a college or university should be to protect your pre-existing viewpoints and shield you from exposure to any notion that there are other people who might not think/believe/behave in the same way that you do.

  2. Great superhero movie scenes?
    Krrish, running/leaping across Singapore. (All done with classic wire work.)
    The Batman/Joker chase through the Chicago underground.
    The backshadowing of Spidey’s upside-down kiss at Norman Osborne’s funeral.
    Wolverine in X-Men: First Class
    Batman trying to get rid of a bomb.

  3. There’s something mentally wrong and very creepy about someone who’s offended by nudity. We need less religion and more nudity. Less superstition and more fun! It’s lug nuts like these Duke whimps and the rest of the religious fanatics, like ISIS, who ruin the world for the rest of us.

  4. This isn’t just a Southern thing, Nathan. It’s a nationwide trend. From the Atlantic: “The Coddling of the American Mind.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

    In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding to be protected from words and ideas they don’t like.

    I’m glad “The Great Gatsby” didn’t require a trigger warning when I was in college. You see, “Gatsby” depicts (but doesn’t endorse) misogyny, racism and domestic abuse. And that’s just too traumatic for some college students to read about.

    Things have gotten nuts when female LAW STUDENTS don’t want professors talking about rape law, because any discussion of rape is so upsetting. Some don’t even want to hear the word “violate” (as in “This violates the law”).

    Great quote: “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.”

  5. It should be noted that people on the left and right have been equally eager to suppress words and ideas they find offensive.

    Look at the most famous anti-comics figures of the ’50s, Fredric Wertham and Estes Kefauver. They were NOT conservative Republicans. They were liberal Democrats who saw the comics industry as capitalism run amok, without regard for its (mostly young) consumers. But I’ve met comics fans who think Joe McCarthy led the anti-comics crusade.

  6. “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,”

    The same could be said of many (most?) books that a college student might read during his or her college career, including, arguably, sections of the bible. So do these students get to opt out of reading *any* books they don’t like? And can somebody please, please explain to me how reading about something somehow implies approval of it?

    Full disclosure: I live in North Carolina, just down the road from Duke. Sigh…

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