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October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  2,855 Ratings  ·  529 Reviews

A masterful poetic exploration of the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the world.

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker
Hardcover, 111 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Candlewick
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Paul  Hankins
This review of OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD is based upon the Advanced Reader Copy of the title.

Is it any coincidence that the very day this book was left on my doorstep is the very day that I would stay home with my son who was not feeling well when he woke up? Or that the book would arrive on the 20th of April, a day where LGBT students volunteer to go silent for the day in solidarity in order to create a sense of gay awareness.

Leslea Newman's rending of the events of October 6
Kelly Hager
Sep 17, 2012 Kelly Hager rated it it was amazing
This is a short book of poems all centered around the murder of Matthew Shepard. They're told from various perspectives (human but also inanimate objects including the fence that he was tied to).

I've read a lot of Leslea Newman's books and loved all that I've read. This is by far the best thing of hers that I've read. I hope it gets the widespread audience that it deserves, but I can't imagine any of my straight friends wanting to read a book of poems about a brutal murder.

That's too bad because
So sad, I remember hearing about this in the news when it happened.

I like that the author decided to write it in verse because it definitely makes the books unique to others like it.
Jul 27, 2015 Vicki rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book in verse inspired by a real tragedy simply because of one boy's sexual orientation and two other boys who could't handle someone being different.

The poems in this book included some quotes from real people who spoke out on the senseless murder of Matthew Shepard. It really made the story's authenticity and senselessness come to life.

At the end of the book are notes from the author. Read them! They explain the quotes in more detail and where they came from.

Additionally, this is a
Reviewed at:

I was a junior in high school at a fine arts school of choice when Matthew Shepard was murdered. My two best friends were both gay. I remember that they were afraid of going anywhere alone after Matthew was killed. We cried for him. However, over time Matthew has become one of a way too big statistic. Though his horrendous death got a lot of press, hate crimes on gay, lesbian, queer, transgendered, bisexual and transsexual people happen daily.
Apr 01, 2013 Sharon rated it liked it
Shelves: with-my-ears
Definitely an important book that should be offered to young people and should be in every YA collection, but the poetry is very uneven. May have helped Newman through the process of assimilating what happened to Matthew Shepard, but that need shows too clearly in the writing. There has been a great deal of praise showered on this book, but I wonder if it's at least partly because they are responding to the emotional impact, which it undoubtedly has.

Read aloud, many of the poems were more effec
☼♄Jülie 


This is the true story of Matthew Shepard, a gay twenty one year old college student who, on the night of October 6th 1998 whilst visiting a bar in Wyoming, was conned into going with two other young men. They drove him to a remote place, tied him to a fence then beat him senseless....then left him to die.

Profound, extremely poignant and very, very moving... This is an important piece of writing, the message of which should be heard by all at least once.
This is a true story narrated through
Alyse Liebovich
Nov 07, 2012 Alyse Liebovich rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, non-fiction
I've had this book on my "to-read" list since I heard Michael Cart talk about it at the ISLMA conference last October. When I saw Mr. Anderson rated it 5 stars a few days ago, it shot to the top of my to-read list. I checked out a copy from the library this morning and finished reading it in less than an hour.

Everyone should read this book of poetry, which, as a collection, is called a "song for Matthew Shepard," the 21-year-old college student who was kidnapped, beaten, and left for dead tied
I put off reading this book in spite of the universal accolades it's received. I knew that Leslea Newman's poetic memorial to Matthew Shepard would leave me sad and emotionally drained. I'm a little ashamed that I was afraid. Matthew's life was not wasted as long as we bear witness to it and model lives of caring and love.
Beyond the power of Matthew's story, Newman's poetry represents exemplars of the form. A work of art and remembrance.
Matthew Galloway
Apr 06, 2014 Matthew Galloway rated it it was amazing
I'm not a real big poetry fan and while not all of the poems in this book spoke to me, those that did just made me tear up. Some of it is so beautiful and all of it is so sad. The poet definitely produces a wide range of poetry types, so likely most people can find at least one that speaks to them.
Bark's Book Nonsense
Free unabridged audiobook available at SYNC until 7/2/14.
I was browsing the shelf at the library for a quick read when I stumbled across October Mourning. Just as most people who are aware of the sad fate that befell Matthew Shepard, my heart breaks when I think of it. No one deserves that fate, but Matthew Shepard deserves to be remembered. As some of the people who are nearest and dearest to my heart are LGBT, Matthew's story hits close to home for me, as it should hit close to home for us all. Leslea Newman does absolute justice to Matthew's story ...more
Jessica  Hilbun Schwartz
I was in middle school when Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. His story had and continues to have a strong impact on me. As a Denver native, and as someone with gay friends and family members, the fact that something so terrible could happen so close to home was deeply saddening and unsettling.

I received a copy of this book a few months ago, but never felt ready to read it. "The Laramie Project" left me a sobbing, emotional mess and I assumed that this book would too. As it turns out, I had
Dec 11, 2015 Hubert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Economical in language and haunting, here lies a directly communicative set of poems commemorating the hate crime / murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. The poems are written from the perspective of not only Matthew but of those linked to the tragedy, including the killers, the parents, the community (case juror, police, medical staff, etc.).
Jan 09, 2016 Beth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A beautiful's beyond compare.
Matt Godfrey
Jan 03, 2016 Matt Godfrey rated it it was amazing
This book is a great reminder of a terrible incident. Beautifully composed and educational.
Feb 11, 2016 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library, non-fic
Jan 28, 2017 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, poetry
This book was a quick read. It is a collection of poems of various points of view relating to the beating and death of Matthew Shepard, who in October, 1998, was kidnapped, beaten, and then tied to a fence and let there to die in Laramie, Wyoming. The poems include the points of view of the fence, the stars, the biker, the victim's family, and many more.

A powerful book that was nominated for the Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Reader's Choice Award.
Megan Kortlandt
Feb 13, 2017 Megan Kortlandt rated it really liked it
Beautiful and wrenching. An excellent mentor text for poetry - poetry as narrative and in many forms. But there is a wealth to be leaned here beyond the genre. Leslea Newman pays extraordinary tribute to Matthew Shepard by offering up so much learning - and a catalyst for change.
Feb 22, 2013 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesleá Newman won honors for the Stonewall Awards in Children’s and Adult Literature in 2013. What immediately drew me to this book was the format. Written in poetic free verse, this book is powerful, beautiful tribute to Matthew Shepard, a homosexual man who would be turning 37 this year but whose life was cut short due to the hatred displayed by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in 1998, when Shepard was merely 21 years old and a University of ...more
Jonathan Menefee
Oct 17, 2016 Jonathan Menefee rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Tenth Grade and Up
Recommended to Jonathan by: Toby Rajput
Shelves: poetry
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
By: Leslea Newman

This book fulfills my requirement for the RLL-520-0 poetry book club read.

October Mourning is a collection of 68 poems that catalogue the events surrounding Matthew Shepard’s brutal beating and death in a hate crime in October of 1998. Newman makes plain in the Introduction of the work that this is not intended to be an accurate blow-by-blow account of the crime. This is a collection of poems as historical fiction grounded in the truth
Benjamin Kuzava
Feb 09, 2016 Benjamin Kuzava rated it it was ok
This book of poetry follows the moments before, during, and after Matthew Shepard's tragic murder scene. On Tuesday, October 6th, 1998, two boy picked up Shepard at a bar, drove him to the outskirts of town, and proceeded to rob, then beat him to death. This book looks at the town and the murder from nearly every perspective imaginable, all-the-while playing with poetic form.

The two strengths that this book has are its frankness in which it talks about Shepard's death, and its want to play with
Feb 10, 2013 Bruce rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This sincere memorial to Shepard, beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die because he was gay, is the result of Newman’s grief over the crime that preceded by five days her keynote address for Gay Awareness Week at the University of Wyoming in October 1998. Unfortunately, the reflections and reimagining of the events are told as a series of clichéd amateur doggerel. Therapeutic as the writing undoubtedly were for the author, the result is some remarkably bad verse. Only the final epilogue, “Pilg ...more
In 1998 Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, was tied to a fence in rural Wyoming, brutally beaten and left to die. He was discovered 18 hours later and rushed to a hospital, but never regained consciousness. Newman, a poet, spoke at his university for National Coming Out Day just five days later. She revisits the crime and its aftermath in this slim book of verse.

My feelings about the individual poems are mixed. Some, like "Where Is My Boy?" (from the POV of Shepard's cat -- "Wh
the book is good. it’s not a hit out of the park, and it’s oftentimes heavy handed with the grief and symbolism, but the really true poems are Really True.

…but that’s not really what i feel like talking about? what i was left with, after finishing the book, were a lot of questions about memory and memorialization.

october mourning’s focus isn’t really matthew shepard. it’s Matthew Shepard. the young gay college boy who was murdered for being gay; who became an icon; a martyr. and… i dunno. at ti
Shannon Grieshaber
This one's a wow. Leslea Newman was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the University of Wyoming's Gay Awareness Week on October 11, 1998. On October 6, 1998, a gay, twenty-one year old UW student was tortured and beaten and left for dead. October Mourning: a Song for Matthew Shepard is a book of poetry honoring Matthew Shepard. I love the way Newman has written this book of poetry. She begins with an introduction to Matthew's story. Then, the poetry begins. The poems are meant to be read in ...more
Oct 27, 2012 bjneary rated it it was amazing
I want to thank Lauren Strohecker for this wonderful gift to our library and with it her advice that it is a must read for young adults. I wholeheartedly concur; in 68 poems in this spare, yet piercing novel in verse, the author was scheduled to speak at Matthew Shepard's college and found out just before about the savage beating this young man received. Leslea Newman kept her keynote engagement and spoke and wept at the sheer horror of this hate crime toward an innocent victim who succumbs to d ...more
This book of poems tells, from different perspectives and in different forms, the story of the brutal beating and murder of Matthew Shepard. The book is adeptly read by a full cast of readers who bring what might otherwise seem like sort of ridiculous and trite poems to life with heartfelt performance. These poems reflect the author's own shock, grief, and mourning as much as they tell any specific fact or perspective on the story.

I believe the book is directed at teens. I don't know how relevan
Daniel Mendez
Sep 25, 2015 Daniel Mendez rated it it was amazing
Leslea Newman writes the events of Matthew Shepard's murder using poetry. She gives a voice to characters involved in the events before, during and after the tragedy. The fence, Mathew's cat, the clothesline are just some among the characters that experience the wrongful acts.

I really enjoyed reading her words. Her poems gave me chills and felt so much emotion by reading her words. I was a bit skeptic when I read the introduction stating that the events are just her interpretations. For some re
Billy Mathis
Mar 18, 2013 Billy Mathis rated it it was amazing
October Mourning is a series of poems written Leslea Newman that deals with the death of Mathew Shepard. The poems are told from the prospective of many people and objects that were involved in the beating and eventual death of Shepard. The stories and poems are extremely sad and emotional and offer a potential insight to the feelings and emotions of the people involved in the actions that took place.

I would use this poem collection to show students how to use personification for inanimate objec
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Lesléa Newman (born 1955, Brooklyn, NY) is the author of over 50 books including Heather Has Two Mommies, A Letter To Harvey Milk, Writing From The Heart, In Every Laugh a Tear, The Femme Mystique, Still Life with Buddy, Fat Chance and Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear.
She has received many literary awards including Poetry Fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Foundation and th
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