Thursday, March 27, 2014

Not Everyone Sees the "Fun" in "Fun Home"

Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir "Fun Home" was chosen by College of Charleston's College Reads Committee, to be the book for the First-Year Experience. However, not everyone sees the "fun" in "Fun Home."                                          

"Fun Home" book cover
In "Fun Home,"Bechdel keeps a dairy throughout her life that goes into detail about her relationship with her late father.  Her father was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home which her family referred to as  "Fun Home." She talks about her coming out as a lesbian and discovering her own father's true sexuality, as he was also gay.

 The book "Fun Home" is a story of two people who live under the same roof, live different lives, but through a journey of self identity, Bechdel realizes she really wasn't all that different from her father. 

The graphic memoir has caused some controversy throughout the state of South Carolina.

"Fun Home" has even gained national attention. South Carolina House of Representatives voted last month to cut funding for the college. The panel voted to cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston's budget for assigning "Fun Home," according to The Washington Post.

State Capital 
Last month in The Washington Post, Rep. Gary Smith, a Republican from Simpsonville, S.C., states his opinion on the matter. "One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt," Smith, who pushed for the cuts, told The State newspaper. "I understand academic freedom, but this is not academic freedom...This was about promoting one side with no academic debate involved." 

Lynne Ford, associate provost for curriculum and academic association at CofC, said that when the committee met for the previous years book choice they, "wanted it to be something that kids can relate to but also give an introduction into what it means to read and think at a college level as apposed to a high school level," Ford said.

Lynne Ford
Ford said "Eating Animals" was the previous years choice and it was a hit, "Students were really into it. This book was by far the most successful College Reads choice we'd ever made," Ford said. So with all that hype the committee had a lot of pressure picking another book that would get students just as excited. 

Johnathan Safran Foer, author of "Eating Animals"was on campus shortly after his book was chosen to talk with the students and facility. "He was the one to introduce the committee to "Fun Home,"" 
Ford says.

Christopher Korey
"It's a perfect story. It is the quintessential coming of age story, set in the background of why liberal arts enriches peoples lives. She comes to find herself through literature, art, references to Greek tragedies. Every student who comes to college has to figure out who they are and who they are in relation to their family that they left behind," Ford says.

Christopher Korey, director of First Year Experience at CofC, is also a committee member and took part in choosing "Fun Home." 

"Definitely not. It is important that we choose books that introduce important ideas, provoke open discussion, and bring a story that is relevant to the time and place that our students live in," Korey said when asked if he would go back and change his choice.

Students around campus have mixed reviews about the book "Fun Home." 

Charlie Marshall
Cofc junior
Paige O'Dell
 CofC freshman
"I think it's more weird that they chose a comic like book to have college students read, then the actual subject matter.  I feel that freshman students shouldn't be subjected to that type of material though.  This is the south and with it being so conservative, I think that's why it's so controversial," said Charlie Marshall.

Paige O'Dell felt the opposite, she said, "It's a real world topic and people who got upset about it shouldn't send their kids to a liberal arts school.  Plus the reading wasn't required, it was just encouraged, so if it bothered someone they didn't have to read it. I don't see the big deal."

Ford said the committee has already chosen this years book for the fall semester. "The Good Soldiers" was their choice and legislation did ask to review it, but has later given the okay. For more information on this years book choice or past books, go to

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Patrick Harwood: Getting to Know the Man Behind the Camera

He is a former journalist turned professor, with a passion for photography through which he captures the history of one of the oldest and historic cemeteries Charleston has to offer.  Patrick Harwood is now adding two-time book author to his impressive resume.

Patrick Harwood in Magnolia Cemetery
"It dates back to 2008, my first time visiting the cemetery," Harwood said.  The cemetery he is referring to is Magnolia Cemetery located at 70 Cunnington Ave. in Charleston, S.C.

Harwood said the cemetery is in a remote location and he "likes the charm of it because its off the beaten path."

Magnolia Cemetery dates back to 1850 and was part of the Victorian Era. It is the biggest cemetery in Charleston, covering 150 acres and over 30,000 people are buried there.

Harwood visited the cemetery back in 2008 and started taking pictures for something to do. "It got me interested in birds and the cemetery simultaneously," Harwood said.

Once he discovered he had over 40 different species of birds photographed, he decided to write a book. His first book, "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary," was printed in 2011.

Cover of first book
His first book was self published and sold about 500 copies. "It was a neat and positive experience," Harwood said.

Harwood's second book is titled, "In the Arms of Angels: Magnolia Cemetery- Charleston's Treasure of History, Mystery and Artistry."

"I started working on my second book two years ago in May 2012, and I'm very excited to announce the publication," Harwood said.

Harwood's interest in writing the book was because he wanted to know, "Who are these people who have these huge monuments in their honor?" So he started doing research.

The book has 231 pages with 10 chapters.  One of the chapters, "Children of Magnolia Cemetery," talks about the high number of children fatalities due to the diseases that occurred during this time in history.

Cover of second book
Harwood has a chapter devoted to the extensive Confederacy legacy that this cemetery offers.  "Every morning four huge Confederate flags are raised," Harwood said. There are six Confederate generals buried in the cemetery and he goes into detail about each one.

Harwood also devotes a couple chapters to the Christian symbolism, such as angels, physical bibles, flowers, etc., that are incorporated on many gravestones.  "I did a lot of research on the iconography," Harwood said.

Throughout Harwood's experience of writing his second book, he visited other cemeteries in the country to compare and contrast them to Magnolia Cemetery.

He found that Magnolia Cemetery is comparable with other Victorian cemeteries around the country, but found that "nothing of this scale has been written about Magnolia Cemetery."

Even Harwood's passion for birds came through in the last chapter, "More Birds of the Magnolia Cemetery." This chapter includes "dozens of new bird photographs, including several species not photographed in the first book."

Harwood taught himself Adobe inDesign in order to put his book together himself. "It was an interesting process, I'm happy with the way it turned out," Harwood said.

Harwood will have a book signing on Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. at Magnolia Cemetery, and the hardcover book is $40.

Book signing flyer
Harwood's passion and enthusiasm for the rich history of the Magnolia Cemetery and his love for photography are shown throughout his two books. He creatively captures the different species of birds that Charleston has to offer in both books as well as in his blog BirdsEyeViews.

Follow him on his blog or on Twitter (cccougar)
 to get updated on what's new in Patrick Harwood's busy life.

Also, check out my follow up story about his book signing, titled Patrick Harwood's Second Time Around.