Incoming freshmen at the College of Charleston are being encouraged to discover their 'erotic truth' by reading a comic book memoir about a woman coming to terms with her sexual identity and her closeted gay father who had a relationship with an underage male babysitter.
Fun home: A Family Tragicomic, is the school's official selection for "The College Reads!" The graphic novel written by Alison Bechdel explores gender and sexuality issues. The book is included in academic curriculum as well as other activities and all faculty and incoming students have been urged to read The New York Times bestseller.
"This book will open important conversations about identity, diversity, sexuality and finding one's place in the world," Provost George Hynd said in a prepared statement."
Bechdel is the author of self-syndicated comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award.
"The themes of Fun Home support the Diversity Strategic Plan, the creating of the Gender Resource Center on campus and speak volumes about our commitment to an open campus climate for all students," Hynd said.
The book has outraged some parents who accuse the College of Charleston of trying to confuse students about their sexuality.
"The school has a reading guide that questions the values and morals a parent has instilled," one parent told Fox News. "It asks the child to question their own sexual identity."
The college spent nearly $40,000 to give the book to incoming freshman and will spend another $13,000 to bring the author to campus in the fall.
According to a reader's guide, the college wants students to explore "erotic truth."
"What does Bechdel suggest we risk by denying our erotic truth," the reader's guide asks.
But some parents called the graphic novel college-sponsored pornography.
"I was appalled," one parent told Fox News. "This is a gay-rights coming-out book and it has some pretty strong anti-Christian themes in it."
The parent asked not to be identified because they feared their 18-year-old son might face repercussions on campus.
"The book references pedophilia and has graphic images of women having oral sex," the parent told Fox News. "Selecting such a book makes me wonder what kind of agenda the college has."
The parent said they contacted the College of Charleston with their concerns but were rebuffed.
"They said they are trying to help the students find themselves," the parent said. "My wife said she thinks they're trying to help them lose themselves of everything we've taught them. This is not their business. They are overstepping their bounds."
Oran Smith, the president of Palmetto Family, a statewide conservative advocacy group, told Fox News the book is "absolutely pornographic."
"Our concern is the vulnerability of kids some younger than 18 who are required to read that book," Smith said. "It really is inappropriate for the College of Charleston to in essence take a side in the culture war."
A college spokesperson told Fox News the book is not mandatory reading – but it will be included in the academic curriculum and through a number of special events.
"It's even included in the family weekend in September," the parent told Fox News. "Parents are going to learn from students and faculty about how the book will be infused through campus programming."
"This is more than a summer reading book," he said. "It sounds like they are trying to indoctrinate the freshman class."
Bechdel told The Post and Courier newspaper that a number of universities have assigned her graphic novel to students. She denied claims the book is pornographic
"Pornography is meant to cause sexual arousal in readers, she said, which is clearly not the intent of her book," the newspaper reported.
In addition to the book, the College of Charleston will host a public lecture titled, "Why History Matters: Same-Sex Marriage and the Courts. There will also be lectures on "The Legacy of Matthew Shepard" and "The Sexual Politics of Urban Spaces."
Other parents told Fox News they were very concerned about publicly objecting to the book after they came under fire.
"They claim they want to have a discussion (about the book)," a parent told Fox News. "But the parents who tried to discuss it on the website were condemned. Those who did were slammed."
In a statement to Fox News the College of Charleston defended the book and said it was selected by a committee composed of faculty, staff, administrators and students.