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

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  1,112 ratings  ·  150 reviews
"A courageous, eloquent, and devoted mother...gives us all a greater understanding of Matthew and the larger meaning of his life."
-Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Today, Matthew Shepard is synonymous with gay rights, but until 1998, he was just Judy Shepard's son. In "The Meaning of Matthew," Judy Shepard confides how she handled her crippling loss in the public eye, the vigi...more
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Published September 3rd 2009 by Plume Books (first published 2009)
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Whitney La Rocca
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
Courtney
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...more
Peggy
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
Shane
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
Trisha Harrington
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...more
Simon
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
Louis
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 like...more
Thomas
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
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
Hanje Richards
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sarah
This very moving book tells the story of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was beaten to death and tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming, and whose death sparked a nationwide movement to pass hate crimes legislation to protect LGBT people. Matthew Shepard's mother, Judy, describes how she went from a loving parent to an activist after her son was killed. Her descriptions of the trial, and her time in the hospital at Matthew's side were heartbreaking, and I like the fact that she present...more
Lori
MATTHEW Shepard is synonymous with LGBT rights, hate crimes and senseless murders, but MATT Shepard was Judy and Dennis Shepard's boy and this book is Judy's account of her son's life and death.

She doesn't portray Matt as a saint or a martyr - he's just her son. Sometimes irresponsible, sometimes worldly, he was a typical 21 year old. In death he became a cause and she tells that journey honestly and heartbreakingly.

People looking for new info on the case should probably look elsewhere but if yo...more
Laura 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
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
I had to stop reading it at least 4 times to avoid crying my eyes out.
Rebekah
Every once in a while, a book will come along that sticks with me. It settles into my brain and sort of just grabs hold in a way that I know I'll never be the same. I've been changed by what I've read. The Meaning of Matthew is one of those books. I remember so vividly the day in October 1998 when I first heard that Matthew had been attacked and tied to a fence and left to die. I remember feeling personally violated at the thought that people could be so heartless and hateful. It made no sense t...more
Ricky
Matthew Shepard was far from being the poster child of the innocent as he was brutally victimized as a teenager and the incident remained with him and seemingly affected every thing he did afterwards. His mother's potrait of him is heartbreaking in its brutal honesty. Sometimes, it seemed as if there were things that would have been better unknown, but because of the honesty, the biased factor can kind of be brushed off. She loved her son but there were times he made her so angry. There were thi...more
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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.” 6 likes
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