Is Judy Shepard's Book Homophobic?

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com June 08 2010 5:40 PM ET

Judy Shepard’s memoir, The Meaning of Matthew, has been rejected from the summer reading program at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. And some people at the school say it’s because the book was considered homophobic, according to North Carolina’s qnotes newspaper.

Matt Comer of qnotes reports that Kathy Staley, an archivist at ASU’s Belk Library, wrote the following message on her Facebook page: “Did anyone find Judy Shepard’s The Meaning of Matthew homophobic? I didn’t but ASU’s summer reading program nixed it because two readers found it homophobic.”

Shepard’s book, which was cowritten by Advocate editor in chief Jon Barrett, chronicles the 1998 hate-crimes murder of Shepard’s son and Shepard's own evolution as a gay rights advocate. The memoir hit The New York Times’ best-seller list when it was published last fall and comes out in paperback this month.

Emory Maiden, an English professor and director of the summer reading program, told qnotes in an e-mail that he isn’t aware of anyone who found Shepard’s book homophobic, but that the reading group committee “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.’”

He also wrote that there were “concerns [on the committee] that a grief-stricken mother had gotten into print on a subject that she neither wholly understood nor [had] a broad experience with.”

Coincidentally, Appalachian State University is in the congressional district represented by Republican Virginia Foxx, who called Matthew Shepard's murder "a hoax" when arguing against federal hate-crimes protections last year. (See video of Foxx's comments below.)

Read qnotes’ full report here.