Fun Home

Publication and reception

Fun Home was first printed in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin (Boston, New York) on June 8, 2006.[71] This edition appeared on the New York Times' Hardcover Nonfiction bestseller list for two weeks, covering the period from June 18 to July 1, 2006.[5][6] It continued to sell well, and by February 2007 there were 55,000 copies in print.[72] A trade paperback edition was published in the United Kingdom by Random House under the Jonathan Cape imprint on September 14, 2006; Houghton Mifflin published a paperback edition under the Mariner Books imprint on June 5, 2007.[73][74]

In the summer of 2006, a French translation of Fun Home was serialized in the Paris newspaper Libération (which had previously serialized Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi).[10] This translation, by Corinne Julve and Lili Sztajn, was subsequently published by Éditions Denoël on October 26, 2006.[75] In January 2007, Fun Home was an official selection of the Angoulême International Comics Festival.[11] In the same month, the Anglophone Studies department of the Université François Rabelais, Tours sponsored an academic conference on Bechdel's work, with presentations in Paris and Tours.[12] At this conference, papers were presented examining Fun Home from several perspectives: as containing "trajectories" filled with paradoxical tension; as a text interacting with images as a paratext; and as a search for meaning using drag as a metaphor.[76][77][78] These papers and others on Bechdel and her work were later published in the peer-reviewed journal GRAAT (Groupe de Recherches Anglo-Américaines de Tours, or Tours Anglo-American Research Group).[79][80]

An Italian translation was published by Rizzoli in January 2007.[81][82] In Brazil, Conrad Editora published a Portuguese translation in 2007.[83] A German translation was published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch in January 2008.[84] The book has also been translated into Hungarian, Korean, and Polish,[85] and a Chinese translation has been scheduled for publication.[86]

In Spring 2012, Bechdel and literary scholar Hillary Chute co-taught a course at the University of Chicago titled "Lines of Transmission: Comics and Autobiography".[87]

Reviews and awards

Fun Home was positively reviewed in many publications. The Times of London described Fun Home as "a profound and important book;" called it "a beautiful, assured piece of work;" and The New York Times ran two separate reviews and a feature on the memoir.[7][31][88][89][90] In one New York Times review, Sean Wilsey called Fun Home "a pioneering work, pushing two genres (comics and memoir) in multiple new directions" and "a comic book for lovers of words".[7] Jill Soloway, writing in the Los Angeles Times, praised the work overall but commented that Bechdel's reference-heavy prose is at times "a little opaque".[91] Similarly, a reviewer in The Tyee felt that "the narrator's insistence on linking her story to those of various Greek myths, American novels and classic plays" was "forced" and "heavy-handed".[68] By contrast, the Seattle Times' reviewer wrote positively of the book's use of literary reference, calling it "staggeringly literate".[92] The Village Voice said that Fun Home "shows how powerfully—and economically—the medium can portray autobiographical narrative. With two-part visual and verbal narration that isn't simply synchronous, comics presents a distinctive narrative idiom in which a wealth of information may be expressed in a highly condensed fashion."[26]

Several publications listed Fun Home as one of the best books of 2006, including The New York Times,, The Times of London, New York magazine and Publishers Weekly, which ranked it as the best comic book of 2006.[93][94][95][96][97][98] named Fun Home the best nonfiction debut of 2006, admitting that they were fudging the definition of "debut" and saying, "Fun Home shimmers with regret, compassion, annoyance, frustration, pity and love—usually all at the same time and never without a pervasive, deeply literary irony about the near-impossible task of staying true to yourself, and to the people who made you who you are."[99] Entertainment Weekly called it the best nonfiction book of the year, and Time named Fun Home the best book of 2006, describing it as "the unlikeliest literary success of 2006" and "a masterpiece about two people who live in the same house but different worlds, and their mysterious debts to each other."[100][101]

Fun Home was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award, in the memoir/autobiography category.[102][103] In 2007, Fun Home won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, the Stonewall Book Award for non-fiction, the Publishing Triangle-Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award, and the Lambda Literary Award in the "Lesbian Memoir and Biography" category.[104][105][106][107] Fun Home was nominated for the 2007 Eisner Awards in two categories, Best Reality-Based Work and Best Graphic Album, and Bechdel was nominated as Best Writer/Artist.[108] Fun Home won the Eisner for Best Reality-Based Work.[9] In 2008, Entertainment Weekly placed Fun Home at #68 in its list of "New Classics" (defined as "the 100 best books from 1983 to 2008").[109] The Guardian included Fun Home in its series "1000 novels everyone must read", noting its "beautifully rendered" details.[110]

In 2009, Fun Home was listed as one of the best books of the previous decade by The Times of London, Entertainment Weekly and, and as one of the best comic books of the decade by The Onion's A.V. Club.[8][111]

In 2010, the Los Angeles Times literary blog "Jacket Copy" named Fun Home as one of "20 classic works of gay literature".[112]

Challenges and attempted banning

In October 2006, a resident of Marshall, Missouri attempted to have Fun Home and Craig Thompson's Blankets, both graphic novels, removed from the city's public library.[113] Supporters of the books' removal characterized them as "pornography" and expressed concern that they would be read by children.[14][114] Marshall Public Library Director Amy Crump defended the books as having been well-reviewed in "reputable, professional book review journals," and characterized the removal attempt as a step towards "the slippery slope of censorship".[113][114] On October 11, 2006, the library's board appointed a committee to create a materials selection policy, and removed Fun Home and Blankets from circulation until the new policy was approved.[115][116] The committee "decided not to assign a prejudicial label or segregate [the books] by a prejudicial system", and presented a materials selection policy to the board.[117][118] On March 14, 2007, the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees voted to return both Fun Home and Blankets to the library's shelves.[15] Bechdel described the attempted banning as "a great honor", and described the incident as "part of the whole evolution of the graphic-novel form."[119]

In 2008, an instructor at the University of Utah placed Fun Home on the syllabus of a mid-level English course, "Critical Introduction to English Literary Forms".[120] One student objected to the assignment, and was given an alternate reading in accordance with the university's religious accommodation policy.[120] The student subsequently contacted a local organization called "No More Pornography", which started an online petition calling for the book to be removed from the syllabus.[16] Vincent Pecora, the chair of the university's English department, defended Fun Home and the instructor.[16] The university said that it had no plans to remove the book.[16]

In 2013, Palmetto Family, a conservative South Carolina group affiliated with Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, challenged the inclusion of Fun Home as a reading selection for incoming freshmen at the College of Charleston.[17][121][122] Palmetto Family president Oran Smith called the book "pornographic".[121] Bechdel disputed this, saying that pornography is designed to cause sexual arousal, which is not the purpose of her book.[17] College provost George Hynd and associate provost Lynne Ford defended the choice of Fun Home, pointing out that its themes of identity are especially appropriate for college freshmen.[17] However, seven months later, the Republican-led South Carolina House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee cut the college's funding by $52,000, the cost of the summer reading program, to punish the college for selecting Fun Home.[123][124] Rep. Garry Smith, who proposed the cuts, said that in choosing Fun Home the university was "promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle".[124][125] Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, another supporter of the cuts, said, "This book trampled on freedom of conservatives. ... Teaching with this book, and the pictures, goes too far."[126] Bechdel called the funding cut "sad and absurd" and pointed out that Fun Home "is after all about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people's lives."[127] The full state House of Representatives subsequently voted to retain the cuts.[128] College of Charleston students and faculty reacted with dismay and protests to the proposed cuts, and the college's Student Government Association unanimously passed a resolution urging that the funding be restored.[129][130][131] A coalition of ten free-speech organizations wrote a letter to the South Carolina Senate Finance Committee, urging them to restore the funds and warning them that "[p]enalising state educational institutions financially simply because members of the legislature disapprove of specific elements of the educational program is educationally unsound and constitutionally suspect".[130][132][133] The letter was co-signed by the National Coalition Against Censorship, the ACLU of South Carolina, the American Association of University Professors, the Modern Language Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Association of American Publishers, the National Council of Teachers of English and the American Library Association.[133][134] After a nearly week-long debate in which Fun Home and Bechdel were compared to slavery, Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler, the state Senate voted to restore the funding, but redirect the funds towards study of the United States Constitution and The Federalist Papers; the university was also required to provide alternate books to students who object to an assignment due to a "religious, moral or cultural belief".[135][136][137] Governor Nikki Haley approved the budget measure penalizing the university.[138]

In 2015, the book was assigned as summer reading for the incoming class of 2019 at Duke University. Several students objected to the book on moral and/or religious grounds.[139]

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