Student Asks College to Ban ‘Fun Home’ and Other ‘Pornographic’ Graphic Novels

A page from Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House. Photo: Neil Gaiman.

A 20-year-old college student is protesting four graphic novels she encountered in her English 250 course, claiming that the content is offensive.

The course at Crafton Hill College in Yucaipa, California, includes Alison Bechdel‘s Fun Home, Neil Gaiman‘s The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and Brian Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned.

Student Tara Shultz did not complain about the books’ content until after it was too late to drop the class without receiving a failing grade, even though a syllabus was distributed at the beginning of the semester. She held a protest on campus, accompanied by her parents and friends, and called for professor Ryan Bartlett to remove the graphic novels from his course, which he had previously taught for three semesters.

“I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography,” Shultz told the Redlands Daily. She is advocating for a complete ban of the books at the school, saying “I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.”

A page from Marjane Satrapi, <em>Persepolis</em>. Photo: Marjane Satrapi.

A page from Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis.
Photo: Marjane Satrapi.

It’s worth noting that Bechdel was among last year’s MacArthur Genius Grant recipients, and a current Broadway musical adaptation of Fun Home recently won five Tony Awards, including for best musical.

A 2007 animated film version of Persepolis was nominated for the Academy Award for best animated feature, and both the Sandman and The Last Man series have won multiple Eisner Awards, presented for creative achievement in American comics.

A page from Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Photo: Alison Bechdel.

A page from Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.
Photo: Alison Bechdel.

“I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition,” Bartlett told Redlands.

Fun Home has previously been at the center of controversies across the country, with similar protests at the University of Utah and the College of Charleston in South Carolina, and a temporary ban of the novel at a public library in Missouri. And last year, Singapore banned a children’s book about gay penguins.

A page from Brian Vaughan, <em>Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1</em>. Photo: Brian Vaughan.

A page from Brian Vaughan, Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1.
Photo: Brian Vaughan.

Despite pressure, the college will not be bowing to Shultz’s demands: president Cheryl A. Marshall has issued a statement reaffirming the college’s commitment to academic freedom, while noting that “Professor Bartlett has agreed to include a disclaimer on the syllabus in the future so students have a better understanding of the course content.”

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