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 every time I hear someone on Twitter (usually a friend of a friend) bemoan how ridiculous hate crime laws are (“because every crime is a hate crime!” they cry self-righteously), I think about Matthew Shepard and I wonder if those people (those straight white people) know how lucky they are.
If I had my way, this book woud be required reading. I know that you can’t make people get it, but I think this poetry collection would go a long way.
At any rate, it is not an exaggeration to say that this book broke my heart. I fought tears the entire way (and lost—I cried more than I have in years) and wished that things could have been even a little bit different.
Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mom, spoke at my college while I was there and I admire her strength and grace. Since her son’s murder, she has made it her mission to travel and speak about Matthew and what happened to him. There are two ways to react to a senseless tragedy like this: it turns you into a crusader or it breaks you. She’s become a crusader and I have so much respect for her because of it.
In this book, Leslea Newman challenges readers to do one thing to end homophobia. I have no idea what I can do, except to say this: I’m a lesbian and what happened to Matthew Shepard could happen to me. It could happen to any of my gay friends. Even so, I will keep speaking out and I will keep trying to change how people think. I have to believe that being the only gay person some of my friends know has some value.
It’s hard to recommend this book because I know that the people who need to read it the most are the people who won’t go near it and who would actually scoff at it. But it’s amazing and beautiful and heartbreaking.