Dear Readers: I was contacted a few days after Christmas by commenter Lance Manyon*, a colleague of the late Don Belton, an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Indiana University who was murdered in his home on December 27. Lance was, in his words, a “friendly colleague” of Professor Belton’s, and spent Christmas Eve with him at a party. Today, he offers some thoughts about Professor Belton’s life, and the ways in which both small-town gossip and media narratives have distorted the memory of this funny, smart, and above all complicated man after his murder. Like many of Professor Belton’s friends and colleagues, Lance is left with the “cognitively unimaginable” fact of the murder, trying to make sense of the many different versions of the story and what they suggest about the deeper town/gown divisions in his college town and in the wider world.
*”Lance Manyon” is a pseudonym for a person on the faculty in the humanities at IU.
Our Holiday Murder, by Lance Manyon
Two days after Christmas, Don Belton, an Indiana University Assistant Professor of English, was murdered in his kitchen. More precisely, he was stabbed five times in the back and several times in the stomach and the chest. Belton was a small, black, gay man with a wicked sense of humor, and could easily have been a character in a Wallace Thurman novel. He was a renowned novelist and scholar of the HIV/AIDS experience. He was gentle, thoughtful, and sweet: when he arrived in Bloomington two years ago, he asked one program secretary for a campus map, and then offered to pay her back for it. For now, his murder is a cognitively unmanageable fixture of our day-to-day. For the foreseeable future, it will force us to think carefully about the intersection of race, class, and sex in our college town. Continue Reading »