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The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed

4.26  ·  Rating Details ·  1,516 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
The mother of Matthew Shepard shares her story about her son's death and the choice she made to become an international gay rights activist

Today, the name Matthew Shepard is synonymous with gay rights, but before his grisly murder in 1998, Matthew was simply Judy Shepard's son. For the first time in book form, Judy Shepard speaks about her loss, sharing memories of Matthew
...more
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published September 3rd 2009 by Hudson Street Press (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Whitney La Rocca
Jul 04, 2011 Whitney La Rocca rated it it was amazing
I am so glad Judy wrote this book! I have known Matt my entire life, basically growing up with him from the age of 1-15. I considered myself such a close friend of his, but lost touch when he moved away in high school. I never even knew he had come back to Wyoming until I saw the news on that awful day in October, 1998. 12 years later, I am still having difficulty with accepting what happened to him, recovering from the shock and horror and anger, but more so feeling guilty for not staying in to ...more
Simon
Aug 08, 2012 Simon added it
I think it is presumptuous to rate the book. Shepard is not a literary figure, and it reads as though she dictated, rather than wrote, the story. But I am not giving "stars" to this account of her personal grief. Quibbles about her "style" are ultimately meaningless.

I directed THE LARAMIE PROJECT about eight years ago, and wish I had had access to this account at the time. It provides a candid look at her son, whom she rescues from the plaster case of sanctity in which he was wrapped during the
...more
Trisha Harrington
Oct 01, 2015 Trisha Harrington rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trisha by: Laura Susan Johnson
My thoughts on this book... It's a hard thing to really say. At the moment my emotions are all over the place and I feel like my review needs to be something... something special. But I know I will not be able to write a review to do justice to this beautiful book written by one of the strongest women. Judy Shepard has given the world something and it should be shared and cherished. She gave us an insight on the life of her beautiful son who was murdered.

I have seen the movie and read articles
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Courtney
Mar 19, 2013 Courtney rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure what led me to check out this book but I'm so glad I did and would recommend it highly to anyone who cares about equal rights, justice, empathy and family.

I was a young mother of a toddler in October 1998 and had recently found out I was pregnant again after a traumatic miscarriage. It was all about motherhood during that time for me. That said, I believe I can relate now more than then to Judy Shepard, of what it must have been like to lose her 21-year-old son Matthew, the victim
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Peggy
Dec 21, 2014 Peggy rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt-themed, memoir
Judy Shepard writes about how important it was for her to hold her emotions in check during the aftermath of her son's murder. She continues to do so in her book and I am grateful for that. I expected that her book would be devastating to read, but she presents the story in an unadorned and almost distant voice. There is no doubt in my mind that this horrific event led to a turning point in American attitudes towards gays and lesbians, even though, as Shepard points out, this positive change has ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
Jul 11, 2016 Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking, Moving, Inspiring, Eye Opening!!! A Beautiful Read!!! I Loved It!!!
Shane
May 22, 2011 Shane rated it really liked it
I'm sure many of us remember when Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and ultimately died of his injuries. I was amazed when I picked up this book that it had been so long - way back in October 1998. I couldn't believe it had been more than dozen years and I still remembered all of the details released through the mass media.

There are three brief comments I have on this book:

First, Judy Shepard is not a professional author, but her prose is honest and direct. The book is brief and spare, and so
...more
Thomas
Jun 20, 2013 Thomas rated it it was amazing
The name Matthew Shepard brings to mind gay rights, hate crimes, and a brutal death brought upon by ignorance. But in The Meaning of Matthew, Judy Shepard, Matthew's mother, points out an important fact: Matthew wasn't perfect, an angel, or a saint. He was human.

Early reports almost deified Matt, presenting him as a martyr of sorts - a kid who could do no wrong who had been crucified for being gay. But like any living human, Matt was far from a saint. Matt's murder wasn't horrific because it end
...more
Ashley Reid
This is a beautifully written book all the way through. I couldn't finish it in one sitting though because I had to keep taking breaks to wipe my eyes and emotionally recharge.

Though I remember hearing small details of this crime when I was younger, I hadn't really heard much since and I was too young to understand it fully at that time. So when my teacher gave me this book recently I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but there was nothing that could have prepared me for reading abo
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Louis
Nov 02, 2009 Louis rated it it was amazing
I gave this book five stars because it is such a frank commentary by Judy Shepard on her son and her reaction to his murder. The death of Matthew Shepard still moves me deeply, for various complex reasons. That is one of the reasons I read this book--to try to make sense out of why the death of one gay person, as opposed to the other deaths of gay people by haters, so affected me. It is interesting to imagine how your life with your son has been essentially a private family matter. Even as you h ...more
Aryn
"You knew him as Matthew. To us he was Matt. I have tried to reconcile the two within these pages. It would be unfair to Matt if only Matthew's story was told. Matt was so much more than 'Matthew the gay twenty-one-year-old University of Wyoming college student.' He had a family and countless friends. He had a life before that night he was tied to that fence."

I really, really, really wanted to like this book. I think I actually squeaked when I found it, and signed, for only $5. I wanted to lik
...more
Jodi
There were so many things I liked about this book, it's hard to describe why I enjoyed it. Probably what was the best was that Judy Shepherd did a good job of showing who her son really was, without becoming overly emotional and/or exploitive of the situation. I also liked these things: (1) the way she illustrated her thinking and analysis of particular situations that arose, (2) her introspection and willingness to admit any regrets, (3) the way she showed the genuine closeness of the Shepherd ...more
Tony Hynes
Aug 21, 2016 Tony Hynes rated it really liked it
I read reviews of this book in which it was categorized as good but "lacking the touch of a true writer." It didn't need one. Judy Shepard's emotions, her state of mind, were entrancing to read. I also learned a lot of new things about the trial that I was unaware of before. Lagged a bit at the end for my taste, but the meat here, the story of a mother losing her son to a grisly murder, is still heartbreaking. The Shepard's did not let Matt die in vain, and he lives through all of us. A sad but ...more
Hanje Richards
Oct 03, 2009 Hanje Richards rated it liked it
If Judy Shepard's purpose was to disavow us of the impression that her son was a saint for the GLBT movement, she did her job. I found Matthew Shepard a likeable if confused young man, reminding me of other 21 year olds I have known. His mother seems fairly clear about his faults and frailties. Good for her.

After reading the book though, I am less convinced that Matthew Shepard's murder had much, if anything to do with his sexual orientation. Seems he got himself in a pickup truck with a couple
...more
Julianna
Oct 08, 2012 Julianna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Who Would Like to Learn More about LGBT Issues or Hate Crimes
Reviewed for THC Reviews
The Meaning of Matthew is the story of the life and heart-breaking, violent death of Matthew Shepard in October of 1998 as told by his mother Judy Shepard. Matthew's story caused a firestorm of media attention because he was gay and his murder was deemed a hate crime against his sexual orientation. In large part, it was Matthew's death that began to bring greater attention to the LGBT community and the prejudices they face.

As I read this book, I was struck by how incredi
...more
Doug Beatty
May 07, 2010 Doug Beatty rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
I had been avoiding reading anything about Matthew Shepard, mainly because I knew the story from the news and it was just heart wrenching, and thought that I probably should stick to lighter fare.

But I decided to read this one and although very sad, it found it to be a good read. Ms. Shepard is able to take the tragedy and use it to find stregnth to educate so that this kind of crime will not happen again.

It was also nice to learn more about Matthew (or Matt, as the family called him) because
...more
Carlos
Sep 13, 2009 Carlos rated it it was amazing
Ever since I received an email about this book coming out I wanted to read it immediately. As a gay man, I wanted to know about Matthew's mom perspective. Like him, I too have a very close relationship with my own mother. This book I can honestly say left my heart and thoughts back to that time when we all heard and got to know this unjust and unfortunate tragedy.

"The Meaning of Matthew" is a very honest and poignant book about a mother's love for her son that happens to be gay and died for peo
...more
Mallory
May 19, 2012 Mallory rated it it was ok
I was disappointed with this book. I remember vividly when Matthew Shepard was murdered and think his mother was incredibly brave to write this book. I thought her writing would bring some new information about her son's early life and some new information about the crime and its aftermath. Ultimately, however, there wasn't much in this memoir that I didn't already know from the news reports at the time. While there were some stories about Matthew's younger years which made him more real than th ...more
Paul
Aug 27, 2010 Paul rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Paul by: Tom T.
The story of the senseless murder of Matthew Shepard is gut-wrenching. That it was written by his mother, with whom he had a very close relationship, is astounding. Judy Shepard courageously reveals her son to the world examining both his strengths and weaknesses – something parents find very hard to do, even when their children are alive. Moreover, Judy Shepard chronicles her and her husband’s lives throughout the ordeal of Matthew’s death and the trial of his murderers.

The central theme of th
...more
Anna
Jun 02, 2016 Anna rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs-and-bios
This book was painful in the same way that Dave Cullen's Columbine was. The subject matter is heartbreaking and infuriating. However, Columbine was also very well written and myth-shattering. This one was neither of those things. I don't blame Judy Shepard for not being a good writer, as I doubt she ever planned to be one, but I wish she had written this with a someone else who could have helped her tell her family's story a little better. Mostly, I already knew the story. There were a couple of ...more
Cole
Dec 16, 2009 Cole rated it really liked it
Shelves: queerlit
This is not a book of comfort for those seeking sense about the death of Matthew "Matt" Shepard, but is a book of the confusion of a mother attempting to tell her side of her son's life to the world.

Judy Shepard writes this novel with candor that is at times almost painful to read but for any that have read or seen the play "The Laramie Project" it brings incredible depth to the life of Matt and his family. Mrs. Shepard does not attempt to sugarcoat the anger they felt at the media during this
...more
Joe Scholes
This was a very well written and moving book. There were many places that brought me to tears. I think it was very brave, and wise, of Judy Shepard to write so frankly about Matt. She revealed that he was not the angelic, poor little gay boy the media has portrayed him to be. He was 21 years old and had the usual problems of any young man his age.

There were several very personal revelations about Matt that came as a surprise to me, but that only served to make him more real in my mind. Judy Shep
...more
Sally
Oct 02, 2009 Sally rated it liked it
While I recognize the tragic story of Matthew Shepard to be pivotal in promoting awareness of gay issues, if not gay rights, I did not find his mother Judy's story to be particularly influential. That said, I very much appreciated the courage it took her to tell her story. When I saw her speak at a gathering in Seattle almost ten years ago now, I was struck by her stated plight: just a simple wife and mother whom fate had catapulted into a notorious form of fame - fame that she never wanted and ...more
Janisestellyn
Apr 10, 2013 Janisestellyn rated it it was amazing
I feel like I cheated because I did not technically "read" this book; rather, I listened to the audiobook, poignantly narrated by Judy and Dennis Shepard, and found it extremely moving. In 1998 I was too young to follow the case and have, since that time, become very aware of Judy's work and Matthew's story, but to hear a mother tell her son's story in such a loving and personal manner was amazing and brought the Shepard case into a brand new light. The sparsity of Judy's language, the slow stea ...more
Nolen
Sep 01, 2012 Nolen rated it liked it
It is not a superbly written book, but it conveys a very powerful story. It is not totally objective (why should it?) but it is far from manipulative, never trying to sweeten the characters of the unfortuntate starrings (never portrayed as "perfect angels", just normal people that shouldn't have gone through such an ordeal). It is the account of an impressive, terrible story, that should never have happened. I hope the weight in my chest I have felt during most of the book helps me become a bett ...more
Gina McDonald
Jun 17, 2016 Gina McDonald rated it really liked it
How ironic I happened to be reading this at the time of The Orlando night club shooting. 17 yrs after Matthews murder and has anything changed for sexual orientation equality? Yes and No.

This was just what I thought it would be. Heart wrenching and humanizing to Matthew Shepherd and the LGBT community. Judy Shepherd, I applaud your strength and the good work you're doing on behalf of the son you lost so tragically. This was a wonderful book.
Laura Susan Johnson
A beautiful and moving tribute that elevates this young man. He's more than a victim or a death due to violence. His mother reveals his mind and soul and humanity. This book is everything a biography should be. Wonderful.
Kelly Murphy
May 30, 2013 Kelly Murphy rated it it was amazing
Very touching and moving memoir. At times difficult to read what happened to their precious Matthew. Highly recommend this quick read!
Gavin Stephenson-Jackman
I was reduced to tears many times while reading this one. A very touching book of a life taken too soon.
Michi Rosa
Jan 10, 2013 Michi Rosa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I had to stop reading it at least 4 times to avoid crying my eyes out.
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Judy Shepard (née Peck; born 1952) is the mother of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at University of Wyoming who was murdered in October 1998 in what became one of the most high-profiled cases highlighting hate-crimes against LGBT people. She and her husband, Dennis, are co-founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and advocates for LGBT rights.

Source: Wikipedia.
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“As a young person, I feel it necessary to show the great nation that we live in that there doesn't need to be this kind of violence and hatred in our world. And that loving one another doesn't mean that we have to compromise our beliefs; it simply means that we choose to be compassionate and respectful of others.” 9 likes
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