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


Hudson Street Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59463-057-6.
Reviewed by Susan M. Andrus
Posted on 12/01/2009

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

I picked this book off the shelf at the library, but by the time I got home I didn't want to read about Matthew Shepard's murder from his mother's perspective so I put it on the bottom of the stack. Good thing, because once I started reading it, I kept going until I finished at 3:00 a.m.

I knew that at the end Matt was going to die, but what was so compelling about this story was the way Judy Shepard wrote about her normal family with the ups and downs of parenting, marriage relationships, and life struggles. The Shepard family was just like any other family except that their son happened to be gay and politically active. While this combination may have been a factor in his death it by no means excuses his murderers, and as an activist who yearns for liberty and justice for all, I wanted to find out if these young men got off easily on some technicality. In the end, justice was served, progress toward tolerance toward the gay community advanced, and Judy Shepard and her family moved on to turn the tragedy of Matt's supreme sacrifice into a cause for helping others.

Finally, I liked Judy Shepard's warm, accepting and gentle voice that reflected her desire to show her audience that Matthew Shepard was more than just a headline in the news. This inspirational book put three dimensions on the family and the young man named Matt.


Judy Shepard is cofounder with her husband, Dennis, of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which is dedicated to her son's legacy. The foundation is committed to the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice; diversity awareness and education; and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Doing her part, Judy Shepard speaks around the country to a wide variety of audiences on behalf of the foundation in order to promote tolerance and curb prejudice.

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