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College of Charleston freshman book questioned

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP/WCIV) - The leader of a conservative group in South Carolina is criticizing the College of Charleston's choice of a book for incoming freshmen to read for orientation.

"If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper," said Oran Smith, director of Palmetto Family Council. "We reviewed every book assigned in SC this year. Many were provocative. This one is pornographic. Not a wise choice for 18-year-olds at a taxpayer-supported college."

Bechdel's book, which is not required reading at the college, describes her childhood with a closeted gay father and her own coming out as a lesbian.

Smith says the comments he has received from the council's supporters are negative.

The release from Palmetto Family Council compares the selected readings of other schools across the state and CofC's selection, telling readers of the website to "stay tuned for the story of the family that arrived at CofC freshman orientation with happy anticipation only to discover the deep commitment the College has made to Fun Home and all that it symbolizes."

The College issued a statement Friday, saying the school each year picks a book that will foster discussion across the campus on a current and relevant topic. The book is picked by a committee made up of faculty, staff members, administrators and students.

We caught up with an upcoming freshman who had already started the book.

"I read the first 20 pages so far. I'm not too deep into it, but so far it's pretty good," said Hassam Solano'Morel, an upcoming freshman. "Actually the fact that it was controversial has actually put me on to reading it because I do like reading things like that and I know that some people especially have a really closed mind and they need to read stuff like that to really expand their thought about what is going on in the world and real situations in life."

The other students ABCNews4 spoke with agreed that the book was a good recommendation.

"I think it's necessary because we are a liberal arts institution so it promotes bringing different perspectives on certain issues," said Steve Lander, a CofC sophomore.

"When students are coming into college and stuff, they need to have this open mind and be able to talk about maybe opinions and views that they normally wouldn't have thought about. That's why I think this is actually a really good program for students to be a part of," said Dan Lander, another CofC sophomore.

The intent of the suggested reading by the College appears to be hitting home with the students.

"Fun Home, a critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, is a coming of age story and an exploration of themes related to discovering one's identity while at the same time coming to a more nuanced understanding of one's parents and one's family history through the lenses of literature, history, and art," the College's statement read.

At Charleston Southern, students are reading Why College Matters To God and incoming cadets are reading We Were Soldiers Once... and Young.

Bechdel says she doesn't consider her book pornographic.

The College's Provost George Hynd says the school is not considering changing the book selection. The book selection is part of the College of Charleston's "The College Reads!" program.

To see a list of previous selections by the College, click here.

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