Abrams Books is set to release Always Matt: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard on September 26. The book is written by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Brian Britigan, and has a foreword by Jason Collins, former pro basketball player and the first openly gay, active player in the NBA. 

Described as “a poignant tribute to the life of Matthew Shepard and his legacy in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, published on the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Matthew Shepard Foundation,” the book is quiet but powerful as it tells a brief history of Matthew from birth to how his tragic death impacted the world. 

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On the night of October 6, 1998, in Laramie, Wyoming, Matthew Wayne Shepard (1976–1998) was brutally killed solely because he was gay. It was a shocking murder that was nationally covered in the media, and it became a rallying cry for the LGBTQ+ rights movement. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed by President Barack Obama, expanding the federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Always Matt: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard is an emotional yet ultimately hopeful look at the progress that’s been made, as well as the work that still continues, in advocating for the dignity and equality of all people. Without shying away from the pain and tragedy of his death, the moving, lyrical prose, and simple line drawings present a celebration of his life. Twenty-five years after the creation of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which dedicates its mission to erasing hate, Matthew’s story still resonates for those who lived through it and remains a vital piece of LGBTQ+ history for younger generations to learn.

“Loud and long expressions of gratitude and praise to Lesléa and Brian . . . for showing Matt as he truly was: someone who was gentle and kind, accepting everyone at face value, always wanting to make a new friend, and who had plans to make the world a better place for everyone.” —Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s parents.

Newman is the author of the award-winning Heather Has Two Mommies and Stonewall Honor–winning novel-in-verse October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, and a friend of the Shepard family.

Always Matt: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard will be available on September 26. Preorder here.

Always Matt