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The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives Hardcover – October 17, 2017
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A School Library Journal Best Books of 2017!
A Washington Post Best Book of 2017!
One of The New York City Public Library's Notable 50 Best Books for Teens!
A Kirkus Best Book of 2017
A Chicago Public Library's Best Book of 2017
"The text shifts from straightforward reporting to lyrical meditations, never veering into oversentimentality or simple platitudes. Readers are bound to come away with deep empathy for both Sasha and Richard. VERDICT Slater artfully unfolds a complex and layered tale about two teens whose lives intersect with painful consequences. This work will spark discussions about identity, community, and what it means to achieve justice." ―School Library Journal starred review
"With a journalist's eye for overlooked details, Slater does a masterful job debunking the myths of the hate-crime monster and the African-American thug, probing the line between adolescent stupidity and irredeemable depravity. Few readers will traverse this exploration of gender identity, adolescent crime, and penal racism without having a few assumptions challenged. An outstanding book that links the diversity of creed and the impact of impulsive actions to themes of tolerance and forgiveness." ―Kirkus starred review
"Using details gleaned from interviews, social media, surveillance video, public records, and other sources, Slater skillfully conveys the complexities of both young people’s lives and the courage and compassion of their families, friends, and advocates, while exploring the challenges and moral ambiguities of the criminal justice system. This painful story illuminates, cautions, and inspires." ―Publishers Weekly starred review
"It is likely that this account will spark conversations, debates, and contemplation, perhaps leading readers to define for themselves what justice means."―VOYA
"[A] multi-layered lesson on the healing power of humanity." ―Shelf Awareness starred review
About the Author
Dashka Slater has written many books, including Baby Shoes, The Sea Serpent and Me, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection, Escargot, and Dangerously Ever After. She is also an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, and Mother Jones. She lives in California.
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But instead of falling into tired old true-crime tropes, award-winning journalist Dashka Slater has constructed a deeper narrative that questions binary notions not only of gender, but of other culturally resonant binaries as well – of victim and perpetrator, black and white, good and evil.
Slater spent three years researching this story. She pored over records. She got to know dozens of people who opened up and trusted her with their perspectives. Aiding her mission was the raw beauty of her central characters. Sasha’s parents are models of compassion, empathy and open-mindedness. Richard, the teenager who set fire to Sasha’s skirt, is an otherwise sweet and well-meaning boy who grew up under conditions of extreme adversity. His mother, just 14 when Richard was born, is a loving and caring woman who reaches out to Sasha’s family, tearfully hugging them and apologizing in the courtroom hallway.
Rather than choosing sides in this urban tragedy, Slater shows a deft ability to explore and give equal weight to disparate realities. Through her own disciplined modeling of empathetic balance, Slater masterfully challenges our notions of moral right and wrong. As we ride along with her on The 57 Bus, we ultimately have no choice but to acknowledge the enormous power of the social environment in shaping perspectives and behaviors that at first glance might appear freely chosen.
If there are bad guys in this narrative, they are the larger forces within these social structures: Prosecutors who - locked into a rigid system of winners and losers - blithely try juveniles in adult courts even when the victim’s family and groups like the Transgender Law Center object. Hate crime laws that are enforced in a racially biased manner. Social media trolls who rev up inter-group animosities. Hack defense attorneys who blunder along with little regard for their clients’ human sensibilities.
One might not anticipate that a story about a gender-nonconforming teenager being set on fire would be uplifting. But by the time we shut the cover of The 57 Bus, we feel not just sadness but also a cautious optimism borne of witnessing the powerful human connections that literally sprang from the ashes of tragedy.
You have to read this book!
Written for young adults, appropriate for middle grade, and a compelling read for adults. This true story takes place in Oakland, in the neighborhood my grandparents lived in long before the events described in this book took place. While the setting was familiar, the egregious realities of a hate crime such as the one described in The 57 Bus were not.
Although other readers found this book to be one-sided, preachy, and even lacking in detail, there is much to be gleaned from reading it.
Dashka Slater, The 57 Bus
Sasha, a white agender (identifies as neither male nor female) was a high school student riding the 57 Bus, when Richard, a black teen from a different school, set Sasha’s skirt on fire. The 57 Bus was riveting, emotional and full of empathy. In today's world, this book provides an excellent tool in helping us better understand our social, economic and racial disparities. I admired how Slater's writing exhibited compassion, fairness, and kindness to both Richard and Sasha. The story shows how a chance encounter can drastically change and alter our lives. In this case, the lives of Richard, Sasha, their families, and friends were never the same. I appreciated how Slater provided Richard and Sasha's unique and honest perspectives. I also liked the easy-to-read short chapters and the author's non-judgmental narrative. The 57 Bus would make an outstanding choice for middle/high school libraries, book clubs, and classrooms because you simply cannot read this book and remain the same. It definitely reminded me to be more open and accepting of others.