“Never let your obstacles become more important than your goal.”
― Dashka Slater, The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.
If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.
This book is one that I’ve seen all over the internet. Some of my favorite fellow teachers have been talking about this amazing and heartbreaking story. So, I jumped at the opportunity to read it and I was not disappointed.
I flew through this book. The story and true crime aspect held my focus and kept me flying through the pages. However, the individuals the story is about really made this novel. They were two sides of a story.
One thing that made this story so poignant was the diversity of the individuals in the novel. The author even included a glossary of LGBTQ+ terms within the novel. The individuals featured in the novel were a person, Sasha, who was agender. The other individual was Richard, an African American teenage boy, that had already been through the ringer in the system. It was heartbreaking and illuminating to hear from these perspectives. I’m so glad this book was written and published. It’s such an important story.
Furthermore, it’s amazing that the story wasn’t one of resentment or hatred. This terrible crime was committed by Richard. Yet, Sasha doesn’t hate him. They and their family are upset at the action. Yet, they don’t want revenge. They acknowledge that he’s a teenager and that teenagers make mistakes. The families are able to meet civilly and see each other as people rather than perpetrator and victim. It’s this narrative that is so powerful in this novel.
I would recommend this novel to anyone and everyone. If you haven’t read it, then get it as soon as possible. This book is important. This story is important. Pick it up ASAP.