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BIG BOOK ON CAMPUS It sounds harmless enough: The University of Maryland, as part of its annual ”First Year Book” program — in which all incoming freshmen are given the same book to read — began distributing 10,000 copies of Moises Kaufman’s The Laramie Project the first week of classes. The idea, according to the school’s website, was to use the play, about the 1998 hate-crime slaying of Matthew Shepard, to ”stimulate discussion on issues of diversity, tolerance, intolerance, community, and healing.” But to conservative religious groups, there was nothing at all innocent about the choice of book, or about the fact that taxpayer dollars were used to buy it. One such organization, the American Family Association’s Center for Law & Policy, is even considering suing the university. The Laramie Project, says the group’s chief counsel, Stephen Crampton, was ”written by a self-professed homosexual…[who] has an agenda. For [a state university] to adopt his agenda and make it its own is constitutionally problematic.” Robert Hampton, the school’s dean for undergraduate studies, responds that the program picks books that will ”expand horizons” — past choices include Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War novel, The Things They Carried — and ”there is no hidden agenda.” And as for the attention the book has attracted? ”People will actually read the book [now].”

TOUCHED BY ANGELINA? Angelina Jolie — Oscar-winning actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and…Pulitzer Prize-winning writer? Well, not quite, but she does have a book deal: Pocket Books has just acquired her journals from her U.N.-sanctioned travels through Pakistan, Africa, and Cambodia, and will bring them out as a book next summer (just in time for the scheduled release of her disaster-relief flick, Beyond Borders). According to associate publisher Liate Stehlik, all of Jolie’s proceeds will go to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Laramie Project
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