- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (October 17, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374303231
- ISBN-13: 978-0374303235
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 81 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hardcover – October 17, 2017
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"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.
A must read!