The 57 Bus

The 57 Bus

The 57 Bus Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Dashka Slater's The 57 Bus. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Dashka Slater

Dashka Slater was born in 1963 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to writer parents. Her mother, Dori Appel, is a psychologist and award-winning poet and playwright, and her father, Phillip Slater, was a world-renowned sociologist and professor at Harvard University. Growing up, Slater was an avid reader—her mother taught her to read at the age of four—and she began writing very early on, even publishing her stories in Cricket Magazine, a literary publication for children’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. After living most of her childhood in Massachusetts, Slater moved to the West Coast where she attended the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1986 with a B.S. in conservation and resource studies. After college, Slater worked a series of odd jobs but continued to write, and in 1990 she began work as a journalist. She continued working as a staff writer and editor until 1998, at which time she began a freelance career. Slater’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, and Newsweek, and she is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the Meritorious Achievement Award for print journalism from Media Alliance in 1994. Slater’s writing has also been anthologized, including in the 1995/1996 Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry, and she is the author of several children’s books and numerous fiction and nonfiction works for both adults and young adults. In 2000, Slater’s adult novel, The Wishing Box, was published to both popular and critical acclaim, becoming one of The Los Angeles Times’ best fiction books of that year. Slater was also the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004, and her children’s book, Escargot, won the Wanda Gag Read-Aloud Award in 2017. Her young adult true crime narrative, The 57 Bus, which began as an article for The New York Times Magazine, was the winner of the 2018 Stonewall Book Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor. Slater lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, Cliff Baker. The couple has a son named Milo.
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Historical Context of The 57 Bus

Dashka Slater’s The 57 Bus focuses on the attack of Sasha, a genderqueer teenager living in Oakland, California, and the biases that lead to their attack. Slater’s book mentions other hate crimes, which are crimes motivated by prejudice in which victims are singled out because they belong to (or are perceived to belong to) a specific marginalized group or race, and many of her character’s deal with different forms of this discrimination. Just two years prior to Sasha’s own assault, CeCe McDonald, an African American transgender woman, was attacked outside a bar in Minneapolis, Minnesota. McDonald was assaulted by a group of three men who cut her face with a broken glass from the bar. McDonald defended herself with a pair of scissors from her purse and stabbed one of her attackers in the chest. He later died from his injuries, and McDonald was charged and convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 41 months in a men’s prison. McDonald’s attack, and her subsequent arrest and conviction, has been widely condemned as racist and transphobic, and her case drew considerable public outcry, including a feature in Mother Jones, one of the magazines Slater herself has contributed to. McDonald accepted a plea bargain of 41 months rather than risk the 20-year term she was threatened with. Ultimately, she served time in two different men’s prisons and was released in January 2014 after completing 19 months of her sentence. McDonald is now a public activist, advocating for LGBTQ rights and speaking out about the widespread violence against trans women of color.

Other Books Related to The 57 Bus

Many of Dashka Slater’s books and articles focus on social justice, an interest she no doubt inherited from her father, a famous sociologist. Philip Slater was the author of several books, including The Pursuit of Loneliness: America’s Discontent and the Search for a New Democratic Ideal and Wealth Addiction. Slater’s mother, Dori Appel, who endlessly encouraged her daughter to write and express herself, has also penned numerous plays, poems, and comedic books, such as Girl Talk and Hot Flashes. In addition to her parents, Slater credits several classic novelists with inspiring her work, including Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez; however, she claims that children’s books have been the most influential in her own writing. Slater names E. Nesbit, Lewis Carroll, and E.B. White, especially Charlotte’s Web, among her favorites. The 57 Bus, which focuses on an actual crime with real characters, is a true crime narrative. The genre of true crime originated in sixteenth-century Britain, but it was made popular in America during the 1960’s with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Other popular true crime narratives include Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City and The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer. Slater’s writing also frequently engages issues of race, gender, and sexuality like Ibi Zoboi’s American Street, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, and Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager.
Key Facts about The 57 Bus
  • Full Title: The 57 Bus
  • When Written: 2016
  • Where Written: Oakland, California
  • When Published: 2017
  • Literary Period: Postmodern
  • Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
  • Setting: Oakland, California
  • Climax: At Richard’s second legal progress report, Karl, Sasha’s father, stands in front of the court and forgives Richard for his attack on Sasha. Subsequently, the judge modifies Richard’s sentence from seven years to five and recommends that he serve his time in a juvenile facility rather than an adult prison.
  • Antagonist: Richard
  • Point of View: Third person

Extra Credit for The 57 Bus

The Big Screen. Dashka Slater’s children’s book, Dangerously Ever After, is being made into an animated film by Fantasiation Studios. The film focuses on the sassy Princess Amanita and the shy prince who gives her a gift of roses.

NoH8. The NoH8 campaign mentioned in The 57 Bus is a charitable organization that was founded in 2009 following California’s Proposition 8, which effectively banned same-sex marriage. The campaign began as a silent protest of the proposal in which subjects were photographed with duct-taped mouths and NOH8 painted on their cheeks. Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2010, but it was another three years before the ruling went into effect. The campaign continues to advocate for LGBTQ marriage and gender and human equality.