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Synopsis

The murder in October 1998 of a twenty-one-year-old gay University of Wyoming student ignited a media frenzy. The crime resonated deeply with America's bitter history of violence against minorities. While the details of the tragedy are familiar to most people, the complex content is not. This book explores why the murder still haunts us and why it should.

Beth Loffreda is uniquely qualified to write this account. As a professor new to the state and the straight faculty advisor to the campus Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Association, she is both an insider and outsider to the events. She draws upon her own observations as well as dozens of interviews with students, townspeople, journalists, state politicians, activists, and gay and lesbian residents.

The book shows how the politics of sexuality perhaps now the most divisive issue in America's culture wars unfolds in a forgotten corner of the country. Loffreda succeeds brilliantly in capturing daily life since October 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming a community in a rural, poor, conservative, and breathtakingly beautiful state without a single gay bar or bookstore. Rather than focusing on one person Matt Shepard she presents a full range of characters, including the locals (both gay and straight), the national gay activists who quickly descended on Laramie, the homocide investigators, and even a cameo appearance by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Her book recounts not only the typical responses to Matt's death but also the surprising stories of ordinary people whose lives were transformed individual voices ignored in the media frenzy.

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