A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that two high schools in the North Hunterdon-Voorhees School District of New Jersey had chosen to restrict access to Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir Fun Home.
The decision was made after an unsuccessful challenge at another high school. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, co-sponsors of National Coalition Against Censorship's Kids Right to Read Project (KRRP), wrote a letter to Superintendent Jeffrey Bender defending Bechdel's acclaimed memoir and the students at North Hunterdon-Voorhees School District's right to read it, saying,
Not only does restricting LGBTQ books like "Fun Home" likely violate the First Amendment, it further stigmatizes and marginalizes LGBTQ youth and fosters an atmosphere of intolerance. Fun Home is so highly regarded for LGBTQ teens that "Seventeen" magazine included the book on its list of '13 Beautiful Books Every LGBTQ Teen Should Read.'
In addition, as you may be aware, on Jan. 31, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation requiring boards of education to include instruction, and adopt instructional materials, that accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of LGBTQ people. As a MacArthur 'genius' grant-winning author of an acclaimed work that redefined the memoir genre and became the basis for a Tony-award winning Best Musical, author/illustrator Alison Bechdel is a pioneering LGBT contributor worthy of study and inclusion in your libraries.
In the interest of preserving intellectual freedom and equal protection in your district, we urge you to respect your students' constitutional rights and return Fun Home to library shelves where all who choose to read it may do so. We also encourage you to familiarize your administration with the relevant district policies in order to ensure that future decisions about instructional materials are based on pedagogical motives, rather than ideological ones.
National Coalition Against Censorship reported the school administrators at the two high schools objected to one single page in Fun Home, deciding to ignore their own policies and limit circulation only to "students with explicit parental permission."
A week later, things were very different. And suddenly Fun Home had been returned to the library shelves in North Hunterdon-Voorhees School District high schools.
Fun Home remains one of the most challenged comic books in public libraries, but it has also been critically acclaimed for its portrayal of troubled family life.