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

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September 2009 Indie Next List

“More than 10 years after her son's murder in Wyoming, Judy Shepard tells Matthew's story with eloquence. Her memoir is both a moving portrayal of a strong family dealing with the grief of their loss and a powerful testimony for human rights and the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in society.”
— Blake Hardy, Outwrite Bookstore & Coffehouse, Atlanta, GA


The Meaning of Matthew is Judy Shepard’s passionate and courageous attempt to understand what no mother should have to understand, which is why her son was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, in the fall of 1998. It is a vivid testimony to a life cut short, and testimony too, to the bravery and compassion of Judy and Dennis—Matthew’s parents—as they struggle to survive a grief that won’t go away.”—Larry McMurty, author of Terms of Endearment and Lonesome Dove

Today the name Matthew Shepard is synonymous with gay rights, but until 1998, he was just Judy Shepard’s son. In this remarkably candid memoir, Judy Shepard shares the story behind the headlines. Interweaving memories of Matthew and her family with the challenges of confronting her son’s death, Judy describes how she handled the crippling loss of her child in the public eye, the vigils and protests held by strangers in her son’s name, and ultimately how she and her husband gained the courage to help prosecutors convict her son's murderers.

The Meaning of Matthew is more than a retelling of horrific injustice that brought the reality of inequality and homophobia into the American consciousness. It is an unforgettable and inspiring account of how one ordinary woman turned an unthinkable tragedy into a vital message for the world.

About the Author

Judy Shepard is cofounder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which is dedicated to social justice, diversity awareness and education, and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Shepard speaks across the country on behalf of the foundation.

Praise For…

Praise for The Meaning of Matthew

“This book is beautiful: heartbreaking, honest, and written with a lovely open voice that makes the familiar story of the Shepard family's loss all the more devastating.”—Newsweek

“The courage of Judy Shepard is unfathomable...but her message prevails: Tolerance and love must always overcome hatred.”—Entertainment Weekly

“[This] towers over the majority of books written about high-profile issues and events...Judy Shepard is one woman telling one story—which she does with eloquence and heart.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“Honest, brave, and beautiful! This books breaks your heart. It is as much Matthew's story as it is the story of a woman's awakening to her position and power in history, as a mother, as a human rights activist, as a citizen. And it's told with the clarity and non-nonsense wisdom that have become Judy's trademarks.”—Moisés Kaufman, author with the member of Tectonic Theater Project of The Laramie Project

“In this extraordinary volume, a courageous, eloquent, and devoted mother tells the world the deeply moving story of her son, Matthew Shepard, whose tragic death in 1998 shocked the conscience of our country. Ever since that horrible hate crime, Judy Shepard has dedicated her own life to promoting tolerance and understanding. Now, in her own beautiful words, Judy gives us all a greater understanding of Matthew and the larger meaning of his life."—Senator Edward M. Kennedy

“Gives us a chance to know the young man whose brutal death started a movement that inspired the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Law. Raw, honest and real, with some surprising new details never before published.”—Kathi Isserman, Curve Magazine
“Shepard writes in a quiet, graceful voice about love, acceptance, and having a hole in one's heart the size of a missing child...While Matthew became a national symbol for homophobic victimization, for Judy Shepard it is the story of a mother and the tragic loss of her son.”—Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide

Product Details
ISBN: 9780452296381
ISBN-10: 0452296382
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: May 25th, 2010
Pages: 288
Language: English