The 57 Bus

The 57 Bus

by

Dashka Slater

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Sasha’s Skirt Symbol Icon

Sasha’s skirt is symbolic of their gender identity within The 57 Bus. As an agender person, Sasha does not identify as either male or female. Instead, Sasha is deeply conflicted about their gender and views their identity as genderqueer. For Sasha, being genderqueer means that there is some element of “questioning” involved in their gender identity, and their skirt is an outward expression of that questioning. Sasha’s skirt is not a statement of femininity, and they don’t wear it because they are trying to dress like a girl; Sasha wants others to be “confused” about their gender, just like they themselves are. They don’t want people to think that they are a boy in a skirt; rather, they want to be viewed as simply a person in a skirt. Sasha’s skirt works against them aboard the 57 bus of the book’s title, and it is the reason Richard starts the fire that leaves Sasha with devastating third-degree burns. Richard doesn’t understand Sasha, or their skirt, and his own bias reflects that of Oakland’s broader society, even though Oakland is so diverse. Richard assumes Sasha is gay, and in his opinion, their skirt is “too much.” Richard thinks Sasha is some kind of “crossdresser,” and they become the target of his senseless prank (he lights Sasha’s skirt on fire while Sasha is sleeping, thinking it will only smolder a little, but the fire erupts into massive flames). Sasha is frequently misunderstood within The 57 Bus, and people constantly get their pronouns wrong, but their skirt remains proof of their efforts to be visible, and for their nonbinary gender to be taken seriously.

Sasha’s Skirt Quotes in The 57 Bus

The The 57 Bus quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sasha’s Skirt. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Macmillan edition of The 57 Bus published in 2017.
Part 3: Fire Quotes

“That boy was on fire, wasn’t he?” a man remarks as Sasha pushes through the back doors to the sidewalk. Behind him, Sasha’s mustached rescuer paces the aisle. “Call an ambulance,” he croaks. He goes to the door of the bus and calls to Sasha, who roams the sidewalk with a cell phone, charred legs. “You need to call an ambulance, man.”

Related Characters: The Man with a Mustache / Dan Gale (speaker), Sasha
Related Symbols: Sasha’s Skirt
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: A Man in a Kilt Quotes

“A passenger on an Oakland, Calif., public bus received burns to his legs after his kilt was set on fire,” UPI wrote. The word kilt seemed to have gotten lodged in the minds of reporters. It was in every report, as if Sasha had been on the way home from bagpipe practice. The Daily Mail, in the United Kingdom, even illustrated the report with a photo of a kilt, explaining a kilt is “the national dress of Scotland.”

Related Characters: Sasha
Related Symbols: Sasha’s Skirt
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Dancing Quotes

“What I want is for people to be confused about what gender I am,” Sasha explained later. That didn’t happen too often—people tended to see Sasha as male. So it was a nice change to be seen as female.

Related Characters: Sasha (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sasha’s Skirt
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The 57 Bus LitChart as a printable PDF.
The 57 Bus PDF

Sasha’s Skirt Symbol Timeline in The 57 Bus

The timeline below shows where the symbol Sasha’s Skirt appears in The 57 Bus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Monday, November 4, 2013
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...as sometimes.” Sasha sits alone at the back. Wearing a black fleece jacket and white skirt, Sasha is agender—“neither male nor female.” Sasha is reading a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...a girl. As Sasha sleeps, Richard “surreptitiously flicks a lighter” at the fabric of Sasha’s skirt. (full context)
Part 1: Skirts
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
Slater tells of the first time Sasha wore a skirt in the tenth grade after borrowing one from their friend, Carrie. Maybeck had a gag... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Sasha loves skirts, and they love the way they compliment the masculine look of their other clothes. Sasha’s... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...except for one opinionated old lady who demands to know why Sasha is wearing a skirt since they are “not a girl!” (full context)
Part 1: Best Day Ever
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
...fan of the web comic Homestruck while on the subway. The person even liked Sasha’s skirt and wore one too, but theirs was “in the wash.” “Best. Day. Ever,” Sasha says. (full context)
Part 1: Dress Code
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
Slater recounts Debbie’s experience being sent home from school in 1968 because her skirt was too long. Debbie’s story is told as a poem and has several short lines,... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...two fabric-swaddled legs / and won.” Even then, the girls couldn’t wear blue jeans or mini-skirts, so Debbie made her own dress “from an Indian bedspread.” However, Slater writes, “That ruffled... (full context)
Part 3: 4:52 P.M.
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Adolescent Crime vs. Adult Crime Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...Jamal and Richard figure, “like that prank show on MTV with Ashton Kutcher, Punk’d.” The skirt will smoke a little and they will all have a good laugh. “I need a... (full context)
Adolescent Crime vs. Adult Crime Theme Icon
Accountability, Redemption, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Sasha’s skirt fails to smoke or smolder. “Go ahead, you do it,” Jamal says to Richard. He... (full context)
Part 3: Phone Call
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...one), Debbie watches as they drive away. “They did it because he was wearing a skirt!” she cries. (full context)
Part 3: The Interview, Part 3
Adolescent Crime vs. Adult Crime Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...ask Richard if his friends influenced him. He says no, but he didn’t think the skirt would catch fire like that, either. As the officer fills out the paperwork, he writes... (full context)
Part 3: A Man in a Kilt
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
...on their door, she responds, “My son considers himself agender. He likes to wear a skirt. It’s his statement. That’s how he feels comfortable dressing.” (full context)
Part 3: Still Kinda Dying
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...him tomorrow / *them.” Healy then tells Michael that the whole school will be wearing skirts to school on Friday in solidarity for Sasha. They are planning on taking a school... (full context)
Part 3: Homophobic
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...if they are gender fluid or gender non-conforming. “I just say he was wearing a skirt,” one reporter says. (full context)
Part 3: Does It Have to Be Me?
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...is released from the hospital. They give an interview on the news while wearing a skirt, and Sasha is excited that an agender person is on television, but they are sorry... (full context)
Part 4: Suitcase
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Sasha packs for college. They pack their skirts, and favorite hats and shirts, and they even pack a bunch of subway maps and... (full context)
Part 4: Progress Report
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
Sasha stands outside of Department 11 wearing a long skirt and “ballet flats.” Their canvas purse is covered in LGBTQ buttons and others that simply... (full context)