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On the 57 bus, a true-crime story of gender, race, class, and growing up

Courtesy of Dashka Slater, resized and recropped
Author Dashka Slater


Back in 2013, two high-school kids were riding an AC Transit bus when one of them set the other on fire. Eighteen-year-old Sasha Fleischman — who identifies as agender —leapt up, skirt in flames, but survived with the help of two passengers.

Legs charred nearly to the bone, Sasha staggered out of the bus in shock and collapsed on the ground. Sixteen-year-old Richard Thomas, who had flicked the lighter and then slipped off the bus, was arrested the next day.

Reporter Dashka Slater explores this incident in her book The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives. It looks into questions of gender identity, class, and juvenile justice, often through the language of the youth themselves.

Dashka sat down with KALW’s Ben Trefny, who asked her to start by reading an excerpt from the book.

"Both these families managed in times of incredible difficulty to look beyond their own pain, and see the humanity in somebody else, and feel their pain, and have compassion for them. And to me that's something to be emulated for all of us."

Click the audio player above to listen to the full interview.   

Crosscurrents Oakland