In 2013, agender teen, Sasha Fleischmann, a senior at a small, private school in Oakland, fell asleep on the 57 bus. They (Sasha’s preferred pronoun) were wearing a skirt. Richard Thomas, a sixteen-year-old junior at Oakland High, was goofing around with some friends on the same bus. Richard saw a dude in a white, gauzy skirt asleep on the bus. Richard had a lighter in his pocket. He thought it would be funny to light that skirt on fire. So he did. Sasha became engulfed in flames. They were able to escape the bus, was eventually assisted by a good samaritan, and ended up with third degree burns on 20% percent of their body, mainly on their legs. The book, The 57 Bus, tells the full story of that day then follows Sasha through their rehab, their support from the community, and their life after the incident. The story also follows Richard through his arrest, interrogation, years of trials, and eventual punishment. In telling Sasha and Richard’s stories, author, Dashka Slater also scrutinizes gender, race, class, and juvenile justice system. A highly readable non-fiction book that will appeal to teens. I highly recommend that all middle school and high school librarians purchase this book for their collections. Not only because the story has appeal but also because it would make an excellent source for research on the topics of gender identity and juvenile justice.
Ms. Slater wrote this book after initially publishing a piece in The New York Times Magazine. That article is linked on the below image of Richard and Sasha:
A group of students support Sasha with a “Wear Skirts for Sasha” day:
Oakland High’s basketball team supports Sasha with “No H8”: