Duke Freshmen Refuse To Read ‘Fun Home,’ An LGBT Graphic Novel

Tara Dodrill - Author

Aug. 24 2015, Updated 8:30 a.m. ET

Duke freshmen are refusing to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. A sizable number of incoming Duke University students have cited their Christian beliefs when uttering the refusal to read the LGBT book. Student Brian Grasso is credited with prompting the debate about the “sexually explicit” Duke summer reading selection for the class of 2019.

Duke University freshman Brain Grasso posted his thought about being instructed to read Fun Home on his Facebook page. Grass said that he would not read the Alison Bechdel graphic novel (comic book style novel) because of the sexuality depictions, according to the Duke Chronicle.

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“I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it. Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me,” Grasso said.

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A multitude of incoming Duke University students commented upon and shared Brian Grasso’s Facebook post. While some publicly defended the LGBT graphic novel and said the book has literary value, others supported the Christian beliefs objection to the comic book.

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“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,” A Facebook user identified as Duke freshman Marivi Howell-Arza, said.

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Fellow Duke University freshmen Bianca D’Souza said that even though Fun Home did discuss important topics, she found the graphic sexual interactions in the book inappropriate and could not bring herself to view the nudity.

“I thought to myself, ‘What kind of school am I going to?’ ” incoming Duke University student, Elizabeth Snyder-Mounts, said, the New Civil Rights Movement reports.

Grasso also stated that many of his peers private messaged him on Facebook and expressed support for his refusal to read Fun Home and agreed with his views. The Duke freshman added that even though he fully realized his post would be controversial, he wanted to make sure that others with religious objections to the summer reading assignment did not feel alone. The student said that he heard from non-Christians who opposed the book on morality grounds, as well.

“There is so much pressure on Duke students, and they want so badly to fit in,” Grasso said. “But at the end of the day, we don’t have to read the book.”

Duke summer reading book selection committee member, senior Sherry Zhang, called the Grasso post “very respectful and considerate,” and said she was aware that Fun Home would be a contentious selection. Zhang still supports the graphic novel selection and said she feels Duke is a place where issues of sexuality are not shied away from.

“I would encourage them to talk about why they chose to read it or not,” Zhang added.

[Image via Shutterstock]


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