The A.V. Club’s Sam Barsanti really doesn’t like Duke University’s incoming freshmen who are opposed to reading Fun Home a graphic novel with nudity and sexual themes. He makes sure to belittle them when he states, “…they refuse to read it on the grounds that it is new and scary,” or when he attempts to paraphrase (if I can even call it that), “it has drawings of boobs or whatever.” The entire tone he uses in the article is one of an elitist talking down to someone who he feels is his inferior. It is quite disturbing because he is chiding adults over their choice in what they want to read and attempting to put words in their mouths that they didn’t use.
After attempting to belittle the students, Barsanti quotes Freshman Brian Grasso as he details a valid reason for not wanting to read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. Grasso explains, “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” Bianca D’Souza objections were explained in the Duke Chronicle “…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.” These adults made personal choices based on their faith and value system to not a read a book. There is nothing wrong with this. I repeat there is nothing wrong with their decision.
These adults have the right not to view or consume content they do not want to consume or view. They also shouldn’t have to be subjected to the childish antics of Barsanti for expressing their beliefs.
Fortunately, Grasso does not have to read Fun Home. The book was selected as Duke University’s Class of 2019 Common Experience summer reading book which is recommended for reading by incoming freshmen. However, Duke states, “during orientation welcome week activities, students will discuss the book in small groups and as a larger community as part of their evening at the Durham Performing Arts Center.” A Duke spokesman did reinforce the reading was voluntary in a statement given to CNN.
I hope the students at orientation have a healthy discussion on the subject of expressing and standing up for their beliefs. Simon Partner, a professor of history and director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute at Duke notes, “Because of its treatment of sexual identity, the book is likely to be controversial among students, parents and alumni. I think this, in turn, will stimulate interesting and useful discussion about what it means, as a young adult, to take a position on a controversial topic.” Senior and member of the committee and co-chair of the First-Year Advisory Counselor Board, Sherry Zhang, sums it up nicely, “I would encourage them to talk about why they chose to read it or not.”