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Santa Monica Reads Chooses 'Pioneering' Graphic Novel  
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January 19, 2017 -- Announced by library officials on Wednesday, the Santa Monica Reads pick this year has been touted as one of the best books of the century, been temporarily banned in three states and is penned in a comics format.

"Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel" -- which will be the subject of book discussions and special events from February 25 to March 30 across the city -- is a 2006 graphic memoir that tells the coming-out story of a young lesbian and her enigmatic father set in a funeral home in rural Pennsylvania.

The book was chosen by a selection committee for the Santa Monica Library's Reads program based on a list of book titles suggested by community members and marks a new departure for the program, library officials said.

Fune Home Panel
Panel from "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel (Published by Houghton Mifflin)

"One thing committee members seem to enjoy is selecting something 'new,' something that we haven’t done before," Robert Graves, public services librarian, said in a statement.

"In the past that newness factor has usually meant a novel’s topics or themes, but this year we’re really emphasizing the 'new,'” Graves said. "Not only are we reading nonfiction for the first time, but we’re reading a format that will be new to many -- the graphic memoir."

Library officials called "Fun Home," "a pioneering work (that) broke ground across many of the genres it straddled -- personal memoir, comic arts, coming-of-age tale, coming-out story, narrative nonfiction, and family drama."

A finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award in the memoir/autobiography category, "Fun Home" was highly praised by critics when it was released in 2006.

A review in New York Times called it "a pioneering work, pushing two genres (comics and memoir) in multiple new directions" and "slim yet Proustian," while a Seattle Times critic called the book "staggeringly literate."

The Village Voice praised "Fun Home," which won the the Eisner Award in American comic books for best reality-based work, for presenting "a distinctive narrative idiom in which a wealth of information may be expressed in a highly condensed fashion."

Fun Home panel

But some critics questioned the highbrow pretensions that made "Fun Home" the subject of scholarly studies in France and led to its prompt translation into several languages.

The book also came under attack by several conservative groups that argued it was pornographic, a charge Bechdel hotly denies, and mounted efforts in different states to have "Fun House" banned.

The book was temporarily pulled from libabry shelves in Marshall, Missouri; removed from the syllabus at the University of Utah and excluded as a reading selection at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, leading to a battle in the state legislature.

Bechdel's book has since been adapted to different media. "Fun Home: The Musical," which won a Tony Award and was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is currently being staged at the Ahmanson Theatre.

The library will kick of a series of special events Saturday, February 25 at 2 p.m. when Bechdel discusses "Fun Home" and her other work, her storytelling process and her plans for the future. A book sale and signing follows. (For more information on events and discussions for Santa Monica Reads click here)

Free copies of "Fun Home," along with a resource guide that provides more information on the book, its author and upcoming Santa Monica Reads events, will be available at all Santa Monica Public Library locations beginning Wednesday, January 25 as long as supplies last.

Santa Monica Reads is sponsored by the Santa Monica Public Library and the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library, with additional support from other community, educational and business partners.

Santa Monica Public Library is wheelchair accessible. For special disabled services, call Library Administration at (310) 458-8606 at least one week prior to event.

For more information on Santa Monica READS and other public programs, visit smpl.org or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600.


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