Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder

Beth Loffreda, Author
Beth Loffreda, Author Columbia University Press $72 (160p) ISBN 978-0-231-11858-3
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-231-11859-0
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In 1998, the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, shocked the country. His death and the subsequent trials of his two (ultimately convicted) murderers made headlines for more than a year. In this pungent and astute account, Loffreda, an assistant professor of English at Shepard's alma mater and the faculty adviser to the campus's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Association, details not only the murder and trials but also the profound effect of the ensuing publicity upon a basically decent and friendly community. Loffreda mixes a journalist's sharp eye with a sociologist's attentiveness to such issues as class, race, homophobia and gender, deftly bringing together interviews with Laramie's gay and straight residents, news reporting and cultural analysis. By debunking much of the media coverage (Shepard was not tied to a fence like a scarecrow), humanizing those convicted of the crime (Chasity Pasley, who supplied a fake alibi for one of the killers, worked closely with the campus gay group) and raising difficult questions (gay residents of Laramie were furious that little of the intense fund-raising for lesbian and gay causes that occurred around Shepard's death benefited local gay causes), she paints a judicious portrait of how such a murder could happen, and how the town was caught in the jaws of the national media circus that ensued. Getting behind the headlines, preconceptions and easy stereotypes, Loffreda has produced a book that mixes intelligence and compassion with crack reporting and sharp insight. (Oct.)
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