summer reading

Judy Shepard Deemed Too Much of a Grieving Mother To Discuss Gays

North Carolina’s Appalachian State University will not have students read Judy Shepard’s book The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed over the summer, because it is homophobic. (Get your LOLs out of the way now.)

Kathy Staley, an archivist at App State’s Belk Library, wrote on her Facebook Monday that the committee had not chosen Shepard’s book, “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed,” because some found it to contain “homophobic” passages. Staley wrote, “Did anyone find Judy Shepard’s ‘The Meaning of Matthew’ homophobic? I didn’t but ASU’s summer reading group nixed it because two readers found it homophobic.” At least one of those readers, whose identity hasn’t been divulged to qnotes, is a friend of Staley’s. She said they’d yet to respond to our request through her for comment.

Or maybe Judy is just too close to LGBT issues to be … an objective source?

Dr. Emory Maiden, professor of English and director of the summer reading program, told qnotes via email that it would be a “huge oversimplification” to attribute the program’s book choices to any single issue. He said the book failed to meet the program’s several criteria.

He said the committee had a “long and…reasonable discussion” regarding the book but said “one of the dominant concerns [was] whether this writer — Matthew’s mother — was the best spokesperson to bring to campus on this issue — most people thought not — there were better voices to be heard.”

He wrote: “[C]ommittee members wondered aloud about how her book would work as a discussion of the oppression of and attacks on those who are perceived to be ‘Other’ — as a clear starting point for a discussion of different life styles and sexual identity, but would also be a gateway into the broader concerns for hate crimes and social justice. So, our discussion was not focused on a single issue, but several — and finally was about how the book might develop and engage a broad readership — and that is as it should be for consideration for a book the whole University community would read.”

Maiden also said he wasn’t aware that anyone in particular thought the book to be homophobic but that there were “concerns that a grief-stricken mother had gotten into print on a subject that she neither wholly understand nor have (sic) a broad experience with.”

Anyone who’s seen Judy Shepard’s courageous journey from grieving mother to outspoken advocate knows what a farce the above conclusions are; Judy is both teacher and student, adviser and advisee, and perhaps the most articulate and grounded primary source on hate crimes and LGBT equality.

There is a difference between being “tainted” and being “knowledgeable.” There’s an even greater difference between being “biased” and “being on the side of what’s right.”