Author and journalist Dashka Slater inspires perspective



Dashka Slater signs copies of her book, “The 57 Club.” Slater gave a presentation in the Black Box on the experience of writing the book.

Jason Altshuler, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Author and journalist Dashka Slater visited the high school this Tuesday, Jan. 9, to discuss her book, The 57 Bus. The book explores an incident in 2013 during which an agender teenager had their clothing set on fire by an African-American teenager on the bus home from school.

Slater spent years writing on the subject, first completing an in-depth article in the New York Times Magazine, and then composing the book. The process involved 14 months of interviewing, with Slater trying to get the perspectives of both the victim’s family and the perpetrator’s, as well as others.

During her presentation in the Black Box, Slater discussed the experience of covering such a complex topic.  She started by explaining how people tend to see the world in binaries: good and bad, black and white. She stressed the importance of transcending these labels in order to get closer to the truth. After describing her experience of writing the book, Slater finished by taking questions from the audience.

At Dashka Slater’s visit, Brookline Booksmith provided physical copies of her book The 57 Bus to be purchased and signed. Slater began writing The 57 Bus as a way to expand her coverage of the 2013 event already detailed in her New York Times Magazine article. JASON ALTSHULER/SAGAMORE STAFF

After the presentation, the Sagamore had the opportunity to ask Slater a couple of questions about her experiences writing.

What was the biggest take away for you, after writing about such a complex topic?

Always, my entire career, I’ve always felt like the more complicated stories are the best ones. I want to go into a story thinking it’s about one thing and have the story slap me upside the head and say ‘No, that’s not what it’s about at all.’ I felt very fortunate that that’s what this story was, and I would say in a way it sort of confirmed for me that the more complicated it is, the better.

Brookline High School experienced a complex incident as well, this past November. Having written this book, what advice might you have for someone struggling to understand both sides of such an event?

It’s hard, it’s really hard. For me, what I keep coming to, particularly at the end of this story, is that there has to be a way back. All of us need to have the ability to screw up, own up, and move on. Return. And it’s very, very difficult. Sometimes when I’m talking to groups of students, I ask them, “Which do you think is harder? To apologize or to forgive?” And I think you could make a good case for either one. And as a bystander, that thing of trying to figure out how you can kind of hold the experience, without having to choose a side, I think it is difficult. I hope your community has some way of healing.