I was 60% through when I realized that this book wasn’t so much about racism but questionable hate. In fact, it wasn’t even about hate, not a fair bit. It was about a stupid 16yo kid. All 16yo kids are stupid, right? Did you have stupid thoughts as a teen, as a 16yo? If you had, this book is for you. So, yes, this book is one half of a kid who did a very stupid thing. And like many of us, he had real dumb friends.
The introduction of the book
seemed misleading to had misled me, as I thought it was a book about injustice – something along the lines of George Zimmerman vs. Trayvon Martin. Like (this book, not in reference to Trayvon), a black kid did something stupid at the wrong place, wrong time, wrong everything. And the crime? He did it to a white kid. I thought it was about that.
The introduction to the book said it all. Should I type it all out?
Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one.(excerpt from the book’s foreword)
Let me rewrite that for you, author of the book:
Sasha, who identifies as agender, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, like every other
idiotic typical 16yo, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one.
Sasha, who identifies as agender, attended a different school from Richard, who comes across as yet another rowdy smartass. Both of them [sic] live in the same town.
So back to my post…
If you’ve read this – Do you think this would have been written into a book if Richard was white? Or written-off the face of history because he wasn’t black
Better, leave out their backgrounds because this whole story has nothing to do with middle or lower class. A white or brown or yellow kid can be easily egged on by other kids. The kid doesn’t have to be introduced this early as a kid who comes from “da hood”:
If you haven’t read this book – I am sorry. I believe I’ve ruined it for you. But all the more reason to pick it up and read for yourself, amirite?
If a white kid had done this to Sasha, case closed. “It was just a stupid prank,” – some’d say. Here’s how it’d go: White boy sent to juvie, two years or less on good behavior, end of story. Sasha moves on to MIT and no book deal necessary. This wasn’t anywhere close to Gwen Araujo. The prosecutor would argue (on behalf of the white Richard) that it was a stupid prank. There’s some hate but the white Richard wasn’t thinking clearly. And add, “This isn’t anywhere close to the Gwen Araujo case. This kid has a future. Let’s help him.”
But Richard wasn’t white. The court believed that he had to be tried as an adult. The book did not explicitly maneuver to that sensitive topic (e.g. it’s a black on white hate crime). But I bet you if you Googled it, there are accounts of that.
Moving on –
I’ve heard about Restorative Justice but this was the first book that took me deeper into it. Context, origin. One star for that.
But… This book should’ve just remained as a news article. I didn’t get much out of this book, unlike The Meaning of Matthew, which left me lost in thoughts. It still does now. The perpetrators weren’t even black and still, it nailed it.
This book, on Sasha’s part,
while a decent one on barely scratched the surface of gender identity, namely agender and genderqueer (and tiny bits of LGBTQIA in general), didn’t delve any further other than Sasha was agender, had compassionate parents, had friends who didn’t identify as cisgender. Last but not least, “Black or white, the law is the law, juvie or not, let’s try him as an adult,” period.
As for Richard’s part, the “black teen”? Richard is paying for his crime by sitting in a juvie hall for five years for a stupid, dimwitted crime, and there’s no way around that – he has to serve his time. After all, he freakin’ set another human being’s skirt on fire because that human being wasn’t “dressed normally”. My own quote unquote.
The highlight of the book? Those two letters written by Richard which was finally read by Sasha and their family after, what, 14 months? That is what should be turned into a book. The inner bullshit of the “justice system”.
This book wasn’t about Richard being black, or Sasha being white. It wasn’t about hate, nor discrimination.
It was about stupidity and ignorance at its purest forms, like coca plants before the drugmakers harvest them, churning them into cocaine.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. Just stick to Google and find the article by New York Times (here you go, and you’re welcome), and you’re good to move on to other LGBTQIA reads.
p.s. After starring the book (Amazon. Not on Goodreads yet), I scrambled to see if there were others who’d done the same. I mean, this book did get a lot of five stars. So yeah I stumbled upon another reader who thought the article idea would’ve been better. Thanks. One’s better than nothing.