A Stand Against Hate Crime in Poetry Form

Source: Publisher Website
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman (Candlewick, 2012, 128pp.)

In October 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was found tied to a fence-post. He was unconscious and badly beaten, and died later at a local hospital. When the full story came out, news-followers learned that he had been attacked by two young men who started him because he was gay. In a stroke of irony, the week of his murder was also Gay Awareness Week. Newman, the author of Heather Has Two Mommies, was on her way to Laramie to deliver a lecture to the University of Wyoming when she heard the news. Years later, she published a novel-in-verse tribute to Matthew. Through a series of poems, Newman assumes several points of view, including Matthew’s killers, his parents, the police, a deer visiting the crime scene, and even the fence-post where Matthew was tied. The book includes an introduction where Newman explains the particulars of the crime, as well as an afterward and notes section where she lists sources and recommended reading.

Newman’s work is very sad and heartfelt, and while it’s not entirely graphic in its description of the crime, the content itself is disturbing. There are also times when the collection borders on heavy-handedness, but proves effective nonetheless as both a tribute to Matthew and as a stand against hate crime. Recommended for Ages 16-18.

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