The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
by Dashka Slater
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Copyright Date: 2017
Reading Age: 12-18
Reading Level: Grades 7-9
Awards: Stonewall Book Award
Genre: Young Adult Biography
Subgenre: Narrative Nonfiction
Sasha, a nonbinary teen, often felt more comfortable in skirts. They rode the bus home from their private school each day. Richard, a Black teen, also rode the bus. Though they both lived in Oakland, California, their paths did not cross too often. Though their daily environments differed from each other, for eight minutes on the 57 bus route, those environments intersected. One reckless, thoughtless act with Richard's lighter would leave Sasha severely burned and Richard charged with two hate crimes. Dashka Slater writes their stories with a journalist's clear statements, making this a narrative, non-judgmental read.
A teen who looked like a boy wearing a skirt. A teen from the bad part of town playing with a lighter. Both of them on the 57. Though their lives only intersected for a few minutes of each ride, an impulsive decision would change both of their lives forever. From pronouns to bullying, this book explores why seeing someone's humanity first and foremost is so important. Written in a journalistic style, the narrative flows and keeps focus on how a single act can have such a huge impact on people's lives. Slater writes with empathy about both teens involved, showing the life of the bully as well as the person being bullied, discussing how a good kid can do a terrible thing. Readers will recognize their own impulses and how important it is to see a person wholly and without judgement. As an investigative journalist, Slater delves into the regular experiences of both Sasha and Richard, explaining the circumstances and privilege, challenges and successes. This a good book to teach how they/them pronouns can be used in the singular. While at the beginning of the book, they/them might seem a bit jarring to those who have been taught that they/them is only to be used in a plural form, by the end of the book, references to they/them feel normal and expected. It is also a good exploration of gender nonbinary people and how gender can be a fluid experience.
A teenager wearing a skirt and another with a lighter rode the 57 bus on a day that would change both of their lives forever.
About the Author
Best-selling author Dashka Slater has been telling stories since she could talk. An award-winning journalist who writes for such publications as The New York Times Magazine and Mother Jones, she is also the author of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction for children and adults.Her children’s picture books include Escargot, Dangerously Ever After, and The Antlered Ship, a Junior Library Guild selection and a Parents Choice Recommended book that received four starred reviews and was named Best Picture Book of the year by both Amazon and the Northern California Independent Bookseller’s Association. Her latest books are A Book for Escargot, a sequel to the popular picture book about a beautiful French snail, and The Book of Fatal Errors, a middle grade fantasy.
Her New York Times bestselling true crime narrative, The 57 Bus, has received numerous accolades, including the 2018 Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association and the 2018 Beatty Award from the California Library Association. It was a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist, an LA Times Book Award Finalist, and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Young Adult Book of the Year, in addition to receiving four starred reviews and being named to more than 18 separate lists of the year’s best books, including ones compiled by the Washington Post, the New York Public Library, and School Library Journal.
The recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Slater grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts but has spent most of her adult life in Oakland, California, where she is always working on far too many writing projects. (About the author and photo from here.)
The 57 Bus is a major part of this story. Discuss the book on a bus trip.
Eight minutes was the amount of time these two teens' lives overlapped on a regular basis. Time your booktalk for eight minutes.
Challenge issues: LGBTQIA+, underage drinking, strong language, bullying
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From pronouns to bullying, this book explores why seeing someone's humanity first and foremost is so important.