by Sam Spence
Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, the graphic memoir protested by South Carolina lawmakers after it was assigned to College of Charleston students last year, has been awarded a MacArthur fellowship (known as a 'genius' grant) for her career work examining the role of gender, identity, and LGBT issues.
Bechdel has been a prominent figure for three decades in pop culture and literature for her long-running comic Dykes to Watch Out For, which created the synonymously-named Bechdel Test to look at female characters' roles in film. The assignment of her graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic to first-year students at the College of Charleston last year drew criticism from conservatives who called it pornographic and state lawmakers who proposed stripping the College of the $52,000 allocated to the summer reading program.
Reaction to the budget cuts triggered weeks of ongoing protests on the campus, national media attention, and eventually attracted the attention of the cast of the off-Broadway adaptation of the book. The show's cast as well as Bechdel traveled to Charleston in April for two performances at Memminger Auditorium.
As part of the MacArthur fellowship, which "celebrates and inspires the creative potential of individuals," Bechdel is awarded a no-strings-attached $625,000 'genius' grant. Other members of this year's class of 21 include jazz musicians, computer scientists, filmmakers.
Cover photo by Flickr user chasblackman.