Banned Book Club: The 57 Bus


photo by Roman Hladio

Roman Hladio, Reporter

I’d first like to apologize to anyone who was excited for The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I got so swept up in reading for English and prepping for Battle of the Books with the library club that throwing another book into the mix would have made me go insane.  That being said, I did read a book that fits the criteria and has been challenged before, so I will be using The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater for this month and postponing The Perks of Being a Wallflower until next month.

The 57 Bus is a nonfiction book written about a crime that took place on the 57 bus in Oakland, California.  It is often challenged for presenting LGBTQ+ themes, as well as a few displays of violence.

Sasha is a senior at a private high school for gifted students.  They prefer to use they/them/their pronouns and identify as agender.  Born Luke, Sasha decided near the end of their freshman year that they didn’t want to be bound by any gender norms.  By the time the events of the book take place, Sasha’s everyday outfit usually involves a button down and a bowtie paired with a skirt.

Richard is a junior at Oakland public high school.  He’s what is referred to typically as a product of the system.  He lives with his mother as they economically struggle to keep above the water.  Everyone who knows him regards him as kind and witty, which is why they’re thrown for such a curveball.

One day, as both teens ride the 57 bus home from school, Richard and a friend, who in hindsight wasn’t the best influence, see Sasha napping.  As a joke, Richard is challenged to hold a lighter up to the skirt to cause a scene and get some entertainment out of it. When he does it though, the skirt bursts into flames, causing a greater ordeal than originally anticipated.

The 57 Bus takes off from this point.  Similar to a true crime podcast, it covers the trial and sentencing of Richard, looks into other possible motives, and discusses the aftermath of what was dubbed a hate crime by California courts.

I’m not going to lie — at some points, The 57 Bus was a little rough.  I found myself having to push through sometimes just because it doesn’t have as much intrigue as every fictitious book ever written, but it is relevant to our culture and provides a real picture of the consequences people face for crimes.

Like I said, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is up for next month.  Again, I’m sorry if you were looking forward to it.  Library club meets next Wednesday, March 6th, in case you’re interested.  Also I’d like to congratulate myself and the other members for a battle well fought in the Battle of the Books — article coming soon!