Top Picks: Remembering Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard was 21 years old when he lost his life to a brutal and senseless attack in October 1998. The promising University of Wyoming student became a martyr and national symbol for intolerance whose murder has since ignited discussions on prejudice and violence against LGBTQ individuals.

In the two decades since Matthew's death, his legacy has endured in the form of books, film, and social activism; most notably the Matthew Shepard Foundation founded by his parents. In 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which includes crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. 

Had he lived, Matthew would be celebrating his 45th birthday on December 1. In memory and celebration, check out the top picks below.

Told from various points of view, October Mourning by Leslea Newman is a riveting book that recalls the events of October 6, 1998 when Matthew, a gay college student, was lured out of a Wyoming bar, beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. 

Matthew's death prompted nationwide attention to violence against LGBTQ individuals, but for the people of Laramie, Wyoming, the event was deeply personal. In The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman, we hear their voices and see a complex portrait of a strong community. 

The biography The Meaning of Matthew by Judy Shepard (Matthew's mom) captures not only the historical significance and civil rights issues surrounding Matthew's death, but also chronicles her struggles in losing her beloved son. 

A longtime friend of Matthew, Michele Josue's powerful documentary Matt Shepard Is A Friend of Mine revisits the infamous case with never-before-seen photos, rare video footage and new revelations about Matthew's short, yet meaningful life. 

In one of their final conversations, Matthew told his best friend Romaine that he wanted more than anything to help others realize their ability to make a difference in the world. Romaine's reflective memoir The Whole World Was Watching is a journey to realize the truth of such a profound statement.

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