Controversy has been brewing in South Carolina over Alison Bechdel's bestselling and critically acclaimed graphic memoir Fun Home. After the book was listed on a summer reading list for incoming freshmen at the College of Charleston, the South Carolina House of Representatives cut funding to the school because the book explores (and, as a graphic work, displays pictures of) same-sex relationships.
PW reached out to Bechdel's publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, about the issue, and HMH issued this statement from the author:
"I'm very grateful to the people who taught my book at the College of Charleston. 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."
Representative Garry R. Smith told the Post and Courier newspaper that he took issue with the book being placed on a list of recommended reading for freshmen because it "graphically shows lesbian acts" and is "promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle."
PW spoke to Smith who said that "with freedom comes responsibility" and the university "did not display good responsibility" by assigning Bechdel's book. When asked if the state government should be making decisions about what books the University assigns, Smith said: "I think it’s certainly [our] responsibility to review the budget and make cuts."
Smith confirmed that he had read Bechdel's book and found "several things [in it] inappropriate" and that he was, in part, voicing complaints by parents "who have religious convictions" and did not want the book being assigned reading for their children.
This funding decision along with others, Smith said, will be ultimately decided on March 10, when the general assembly meets.
Director of media relations for the College of Charleston, Mike Robertson, also noted that the funding cuts have not been finalized, and that the hope is the funding "will be restored."
In an earlier statement about the controversy, College of Charleston President P. George Benson said: "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."