Over the past few years, there’s been a huge upsurge in efforts to remove books about gender and race from libraries and schools, and in some cases even ban them from being sold to minors altogether. One of the books frequently targeted by these campaigns is “The 57 Bus,” which examines a 2013 incident involving a nonbinary teenager who was lit on fire by an Oakland High student while taking AC Transit home from school. The book was a bestseller and won critical acclaim for its nuanced portrayal of what it’s like to be a young person who doesn’t fit into “traditional” gender roles, as well as its critical look into the failings of America’s criminal justice system, but now it’s being illegitimately denounced as “pornographic” by parents parroting the talking points of conservative organizations like Moms for Liberty. In reality, there’s nothing sexual in the book—they’re simply scared of it.
Besides book banning, there are hundreds of anti-LGBTQ laws being proposed across the country right now, not to mention rising cases of violent intimidation like the Proud Boys’ disruption of a “Drag Queen Story Hour” event right here in the East Bay earlier this month. Amidst this reactionary backlash, I interviewed the author of “The 57 Bus,” Dashka Slater, a longtime Oakland resident and former East Bay Express staff writer. In this episode, we discuss the battle over controversial books, the political power of historical narratives, and, of course, the disturbing crime at the center of “The 57 Bus.” Listen now on Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts.
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