The Meaning of Matthew by Judy Shepard with Jon Barrett
Ridge Hardy
1/17/2010 7:20:58 PM

No one should ever have to write a book about the death of their child, let alone a death as horrific and brutal as the tragic end of Matthew Shepard. But there are those few courageously bold, outspoken people who possess the magical capability to transform an unspeakable tragedy into a message that simply says "Enough is enough." One such person is Judy Shepard, and she has decided to let her message sound out like a universal clarion call for justice and the end of hatred in her new book The Meaning of Matthew released last fall on Hudson Street Press.

The Meaning of Matthew is not an easy read. It's a depressing tale of a mother still grasping to come to terms with the senseless murder of her son; a murder that was committed solely because he loved differently. A personís sexuality should not be an issue with regard to human rights, this isn't the Bronze Age... and that method of thinking (or not thinking, to be more specific) is antiquated, stupid, and should be outlawed for eternity. Matthew Shepard loved differently and lived in a world unwilling to accept anyone or anything that didn't fit in with the master plan. But as Judy Shepard believes, it can be changed through love and acceptance by continuing Matthew's message.

Matthew Shepard was no saint, as we find out from reading the book. Rather, he was an ordinary kid who fought his way through life and persisted just like the rest of us. And it's this deeply human portrayal for which this book should be respected and lauded the most. Judy Shepard has not played into any myths and she hasn't allowed her son to be canonized or labeled a martyr. She writes that his death is only a product of hatred, ignorance, intolerance, and fear. Nothing more, nothing less. Everyone has the ability to see beyond themselves, and when their eyes fall on the struggles of other people, then the world will become a better place, as she explains.

This is nothing but a beautiful book. Written with love, respect, frustration, confusion, and understanding. You'll become depressed, enraged, you'll cringe, squirm, maybe you'll cry --but once you begin, you have to keep reading it.


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