Saturday, September 22, 2012

October Mourning by Leslea Newman

Leslea Newman's October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shephard is the kind of verse novel that readers would find in the subgenre entitled verse biographies in my books. That is to say that this is a fictionalized account of a life, told entirely in verse. In this case, the 68 poems that make up this book vary widely from a haiku to the villanelle to free verse, and are discussed in an appendix. Additionally, they are told in different points of view  that start and end with the fence and include Matthew's friends, his mother, the policemen who investigate the crime and the two men who committed it. This is a style that will be attractive to readers familiar with Allan Wolf (The Watch that Ends the Night) and will help to create empathy for readers who may not be familiar with Shepard's case, although this is hardly necessary, given the gravity and horrific nature of the crime. This is a book that should be read with kleenex handy.

This is an incredibly powerful book, and one that should be included in public and high school libraries, not only because it is a good book about poetry and poetic forms, as well as a heinous incident that should be remembered for its own sake, a remembrance of a man whose only crime was being part of the LGBTQ community, but also because voices in those communities deserve to know that they are welcome in any community.