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Light-bulbGender, race and justice

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by Knoll Jerold - Jan 03, 2020 Star_s7 views

A true-crime, legal thriller. A stirring treatise on diversity, gender, race, crime and justice. In The 57 Bus, award-winning journalist and author Dashka Slater offers a window into America in all its tangled complexity. The author talks about nonfiction aimed at teen readers, the power of restorative justice, the importance of community and more.

The 57 Bus started out as an article for the New York Times Magazine. How and why did you decide to target teen readers with this book-length project?

The whole time I was working on the Times Magazine article, I was also fantasizing about writing the story in a different way, for a different audience. It seemed clear to me that teenagers would find the characters compelling and I wanted them to have a chance to grapple with the complex issues the story raises: issues about either/or narratives, about race, gender, class, justice and forgiveness. At the same time, I wasn’t sure if YA nonfiction of this type was even a thing. As it turned out, my editor at FSG, Joy Peskin, read my piece and immediately contacted my agent to see if I would be interested in writing it as a book for teens. It felt like kismet.

Superficially, The 57 Bus is about two people in Oakland and the bus ride that leaves one severely burned and the other facing criminal charges. But it is so much more expansive than that. You bring multiple, overlapping communities into the story. Was this emphasis on community and interconnection a response to the facts of Sasha and Richard’s stories, or was this a larger worldview you brought to the work?

A little of both. I’ve always been interested in communities of all kinds—from renaissance fair jousters to cryptography hackers to small towns afflicted by toxic spills. I’m the daughter of a sociologist (Philip Slater, author of The Pursuit of Loneliness) and a psychologist (playwright Dori Appel). I was raised to understand that people don’t exist in a vacuum: We are all part of a family, a community, a society and an environment that shapes who we are and how we see the world. Given that understanding, it felt clear to me that Sasha and Richard’s stories couldn’t be told without some context for the worlds in which they lived.

Shell Shockers full version.

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