The 57 Bus
This is the true story of Sasha, who identifies as agender, meaning neither male or female, and Richard, a boisterous jokester. Their paths crossed when both of them were riding the 57 bus in Oakland, California after school - Sasha was sleeping, and Richard was with his friends. On a whim, Richard held a lighter to Sasha's skirt, which caught fire and burned calf to thigh. Richard's friends were not arrested or interviewed, but Richard, who spoke to police without an attorney or parent present, was charged with a hate crime and assault.
This is an accessible book for teens since the author, a journalist, spells out the story factually, through interviews with Sasha, Richard, and their friends and family. Some chapters are extremely short, but the author walks us through the personal histories, as well as issues regarding LGBTQ language and laws, the class differences in Oakland, the juvenile court and correctional systems, and a range of big-picture issues connected to this incident. In a society that can be quick to make instant heroes and villains of regular people, this book is important to help readers understand different perspectives. Events that seem all good or all bad can have complex roots and consequences that aren't immediately evident to most people, and this book invites readers to see the world through both Sasha's and Richard's eyes. It also raises questions about justice, forgiveness, open-mindedness, and institutional practices.
"After the police arrived, the man with the mustache walked home, tears streaming down his face. He was in shorts and a button-up shirt, his jacket charred from smothering the flames.
If you like this book, you may also like . . .