August 11, 2021 7:34 AM EDT

In 2013, a singular moment of violence on a bus in Oakland, Calif., indelibly shaped the courses of two teenagers’ futures. Journalist Dashka Slater explores this moment in her 2017 nonfiction book The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives. Though Richard and Sasha are both high school students who live in Oakland, their lives and experiences are vastly different: Sasha is a white genderqueer teen with Asperger’s syndrome, a middle-class upbringing and a private-school education; Richard is a Black teenager from East Oakland who attends public school and hopes for a brighter future despite encountering intense interpersonal and structural violence. After Richard impulsively lights Sasha’s skirt on fire on the bus one day, the consequences that follow challenge the ways in which they and their communities think about race, gender, class, accountability and justice. Slater approaches both students’ perspectives with nuance and complexity, and while there are no easy answers in this narrative, her compassionate writing shows that there’s often more to the story than we see. —Cady Lang

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