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October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  3,966 ratings  ·  710 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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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  3,966 ratings  ·  710 reviews

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Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wax-poetic
My husband's job was relocated to Colorado in the summer of 1998, so we packed up the moving truck and headed West.

I had only known the West through the eyes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Larry McMurtry and John Steinbeck, but as soon as the dust settled, I knew I loved it as they did. The West won me over with its open prairies, its big sky country and, of course, in Colorado, its gorgeous, non-stop panoramic views. Our little family drove everywhere we could that summer, and I found that I could n
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, important, owned
This is just to say
I'm sorry
to deny
your request
to use
the gay panic defense

Forgive me
for pointing out
the obvious:
there was someone gay
and panicked that night
but that someone wasn't you

I expected to cry, and at the same time I thought, nah, it's just words, and it's poetry, which means even fewer words! I'll be fine. Reader, I was not fine.

I had heard of Matthew Shepard, had heard of the horrible hate crime that killed him, but I'd never made the effort to find out more. Sometimes, stories get to
Dave Schaafsma
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I made a commitment twenty years ago that I would not forget Matthew Shepard. I think it was in part because of Doug, my Peter VanDaan from the high school production I directed of The Diary of Ane Frank who died later in Chicago of AIDS.

Gay, kidnapped by two straight drunk kids pretending to be gay, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, Shepard was tied to a fence to die outside Laramie, Wyoming, and became what he never wanted to be, a kind of symbol for vicious violent rage against queer kid
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 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
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I’m not sure what else to say. I read this book in about 30 minutes and wished it hadn’t gone so quickly. Each poem is specifically written to capture something related to the murder of Matthew Shepard. Each poem is so well written that you feel like you were there with Mathew on the fence or at the trials against the murderers or grieving with his mother and father. An excellent collection and a must read for the LGBT community and its supporters.
Jessica 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
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.
Gray Cox
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good, made-me-think, lgbtq
"Then I was a person, now I am a headline."

I am disgusted that this happened to Matthew, I am disgusted that this still happens.

Rest in peace, Matthew.
Jul 27, 2015 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
Kellee Moye
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.

Leslea Newman takes us into the night of Matthew's de
Apr 01, 2013 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
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.
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
Alyse Liebovich
Nov 07, 2012 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
Matthew Galloway
Apr 06, 2014 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. ...more
Paul Manytravels
“October Mourning” is a tribute and memorials to a 5 foot one inch, 105 pound 21 year old who was beaten mercilessly while lashed to a fence by two larger armed men. The crime was horrific and beyond despicable, and it remains in the memories of anyone old enough to recall the crime. The savage murder was committed in Wyoming in 1998 but its impact continues to be felt and experienced.
This is a book largely told in poetry, although there is additional material in the beginning and end and a won
Michelle Stimpson
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Logistically, I could have read this in one sitting. Emotionally, I could not. I did complete it in a day, but I had to take breaks. It's heartbreaking. It's raw. It's real. And we should never ever forget.

There is a notes section in the back which cite the references the poet used for each poem. There are more resources for those who want to explore the case in other ways (reading, film, etc.) And the poet gave an explanation of each form of poetry she used, which I thought was a really nice to
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful tribute to Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was brutally beaten in October 1998 by two assailants, strung up on a fence post and left to die outside of Laramie, Wyoming. He was found 18 ours later by a mountain biker. He never regained consciousness and died 5 days later in a Fort Collins hospital. This hate crime inspired new legislation against hate crimes and a movement for LGBT rights in Wyoming. Beautifully written, this book takes you through all the different aspects ...more
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I re-read this book as part of the August chat to read books from the 1980s and 1990s (written during that time or SET in that time period) for the 8/30 chat at 8pm EST, please join us! Newman's novel in verse is beautiful, horrible in it's sadness, insightful in the imagining of Matthew Shepard's murder, really EVERYONE must read this slim but HAUNTING imagining of his last night, October 6, 1998.

I want to thank Lauren Strohecker for this wonderful gift to our library and with it her advice tha
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gr-8-semester-2
This was beyond powerful. I had no idea what this was about when I picked up it, but it was touching and moving. The poems in this are so beautiful, no matter what perspective the author was trying to portray. I'm honestly speechless, there are really no other ways to describe the emotion and beauty within each poem.

This novel in verse is about Matthew Shepard who was killed brutally for being gay in 1998. The author knew Matthew very well, and what she does is try to show us how she thinks eac
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a powerful collection of poems paying tribute to the life of Matthew Shepard. The scope of the types of poems is impressive and the POV Newman covers even more so.

I recall vividly when this heinous crime was committed. I can't believe the amount of suffering Shepard's family must have endured. But this collection provides a perspective that offers healing and reminds us to have compassion for those that are different than ourselves.

I'm so glad I picked it up at my school library.
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
I really appreciate what the author was trying to do with this novel. I also think that remembering what happened to Matthew Shepard and trying to positively impact your community are very important. To me, the most meaningful parts were the Introduction and the Afterword. They gave an overview of the author's position and the lasting impact that the violence against Matthew and his subsequent death have had. I would have rather read more essays like that, then poems. ...more
Stacy Slater
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rather than a novel in verse, which is such a popular format, Newman instead offers a collection of 68 poems centered on the tragedy of Matthew Shepherd's horrific death. Newman imagines a wide variety of perspectives, including those of the killer, of Matthew himself, and of the fence that stood as silent witness to the brutality. I had to pause several times while reading this slim book to catch my breath and wipe tears from my cheeks. ...more
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gr9
Please just read it.

For more information, please see Kirsten’s review. (Shoutout of her, thank you for being Goodreads friends with me so that I can see what you’ve rated highly so I can check out too many books from the library at once.)
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gr-8-semester-2
This was beyond powerful. I had no idea what this was about when I picked up it, but it was touching and moving. The poems in this are so beautiful, no matter what perspective the author was trying to portray. I'm honestly speechless, there are really no other ways to describe the emotion and beauty within each poem.

This novel in verse is about Matthew Shepard who was killed brutally for being gay in 1998. The author knew Matthew very well, and what she does is try to show us how she thinks eac
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
Deceptively simple. “Scared to Death” moved me to tears. Eminently teachable and mimic-able. The poems in this collection mimic famous poems (eg, “This is just to say”) and work in specific forms and formats (eg, sestina, “Though we are x, we are not y”) that lend themselves to being copied. I like the idea of having kids pick their own moment in history to write five poems about, using OCTOBER MOURNING as a roadmap. I think they could nail it.

RIPower Matt Shepard and all people murdered for be
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, young-adult
Paying homage to Matthew Shepard, Lesléa Newman's stirring YA verse collection is startlingly teachable.

I am ashamed that I did not howl with rage when news of Shepard's story broke in 1998. Having read this book, my boyself, once paralyzed with fear, rages now. The manself forgives, touches his shoulder, and joins the howling.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the thing about poetry is that when it is written about something that means anything to you, you’ll either love it or hate it.
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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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