October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
Author: Lesléa Newman
Narrated By: Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, Christina Traister
Run Time: 1 hr and 19 minutes
Produced by: Candlewick on Brilliance Audio
On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.
I remember being in high school when Matthew Shepard was attacked and died and 1998. It made shock-waves around the world – even my small town in Australia heard about it. Until then I had never really considered hate crimes and the pain they cause. Yes, I had heard of Rodney King and the attack on him – but in my homogenous community, it wasn’t really anything I had experienced or paid attention to. October Mourning was written in response to the attack on Matthew Shepard, and in part, can be used to educate the younger generation on what happened – since for many of them, they likely would not of/never will hear of it – except through something like this book of poetry.
I will say upfront, that poetry, normally isn’t my thing – I read it on rare occasions, but I don’t particularly enjoy it (maybe because I was forced to read it in high school so much). But since the audiobook was short (barely over an hour) – it was a quick/easy listen while I was out running errands one morning. I liked how the author wrote poems not only from the perspective of people involved (the guys who attacked Matthew, the bartending who was the last person to see him; friends and family) – but also animals (like Matthews cat) and inanimate objects (like the fence stake). It was an intriguing approach. The poems were also not poetry, in the normal/expected sense of the word, but rather free verse – some short, some long, lots of emphasis on different words and stylistic choices.
All of the narrators in the audiobook were new to me, with the exception of Kate Rudd. The narrators took turns for the most part with the narration – but there were a few poems where multiple voices were used. There was one (and now, I’m blanking on the title) – that started out with one voice, and one by one the voices joined in until they were narrating in unison, and then slowly died away until only the one voice remained. That poem in particular, gave me goosebumps as I heard it. I enjoyed the diversity of the voices and felt that the director did a good job of matching narration skills with the different perspectives being shown.
This is an audiobook that really made me think and remember, but I have a hard time rating it because of the topic/and the themes. So I am going to leave it unrated. I will say that people may need some tissues handy if you listen to it though. I can see why it was a Stonewall Honor book.