About Dashka Slater

Journalist, novelist, and children's book author Dashka Slater has been telling stories since she could talk. Her novel for adults, The Wishing Box, was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, while her journalism honors include a gold Azbee, two Maggies, and a Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement Award, as well as awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association of Alternative Newspapers, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the California State Bar, and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. She is a former “Who Made That” columnist for the New York Times Magazine and has written on topics ranging from competitive jousting to criminal justice. The recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Slater’s new non-fiction narrative, The 57 Bus: A True Story About Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives, will be released by Farrar Straus & Giroux in October 2017.


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Books A Million

  • 3 Starred Reviews
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • A BookExpo 2017 Editors Buzz Panel Pick
  • An Amazon Young Adult Pick

Teachers! Download Discussion Questions here! 

Reviews

“Slater artfully unfolds a complex and layered tale about two teens whose lives intersect with painful consequences. This work will spark discussions about identity, community, and what it means to achieve justice."

Full review

“Riveting… Slater skillfully conveys the complexities of both young people’s lives and the courage and compassion of their families, friends, and advocates, while exploring the challenges and moral ambiguities of the criminal justice system. This painful story illuminates, cautions, and inspires.”

Full review

“Few readers will traverse this exploration of gender identity, adolescent crime, and penal racism without having a few assumptions challenged. An outstanding book that links the diversity of creed and the impact of impulsive actions to themes of tolerance and forgiveness.”

Full review

"I wish The 57 Bus was required reading in all high schools across the country. Not only is this nonfiction book beautifully written and meticulously researched, but it is pieced together in such a way that it continuously challenges the readers to think beyond what they hear, beyond what they are shown, beyond what they assume. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it."

Reviews

Glamour

At the start of this funny, magical debut novel, 29-year-old single mom Julia Harris has no ambition, no relationship and no clue about what she wants from life. But when clairvoyant Aunt Simone inspires Julia’s sister, Lisa, to wish for the return of their long-absent father, his appearance sets off a chain of events that forces Julia to earn her happy ending – aptly illustrating yet another warning your mother had right: Be careful what you wish for.

San Jose Mercury News

Dashka Slater...has written a stunning, poetic first novel about appearances and disappearances, about family legacies, religious belief and cultural inheritances... Her language feels meant to be read aloud... Impressive.

Los Angeles Times

An impish novel, hopeful and full of humor.

Dallas Morning News

Slater, a California poet and journalist, has crafted an imaginative book that is lovely, lively, funny and smart.

Publisher's Weekly

An enchanting debut.

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An Interview with
Dashka Slater

Part 1 | Part 2 

Kindlegraph: Request an Autographed eBook

Behind the scenes at iFixit, where DIY repair is more than just a business.

Source: Mother Jones. Published November/December 2012.

IN MARCH, ONE DAY BEFORE THE RELEASE of the iPad 3, iFixit cofounder Luke Soules traveled 17 hours from San Luis Obispo, California, to Melbourne, Australia, so that he could be the first person in the world—literally—to purchase one. Then, wielding a heat gun, some high-powered suction cups, eight guitar picks, a Phillips screwdriver, and a flat-headed tool called a spudger, he proceeded to gut the thing part by part, tweeting out photos as he did.

The stunt was catnip for a technology press eager for an angle on the latest launch and for gadget geeks hot to glimpse live nude photos of the iPad's massive battery and dual-core A5X processor. But the teardown, one in a series, had a more subversive purpose. "We've figured out how to hijack the news cycle to change the dialogue to be more about long-term thinking and repair," explains Kyle Wiens, who founded iFixit with Soules while both were students at California Polytechnic State University.

Indeed, most stories about the teardown noted why iFixit had rated the new iPad a paltry 2 out of 10 for repairability: glued-together components that make it nearly impossible to fix a cracked screen, replace a dead battery, or even disassemble a defunct iPad for recycling. "Apple has trained people to think that when their battery wears out it means that their device is wearing out and you just get a new one," Wiens says.

iFixit—a fixture on Inc. magazine's list of fastest-growing US firms—aims to change that assumption. It sells tools and parts and provides free, crowdsourced manuals showing how to repair everything from smartphones to bikes and coffeemakers. At last count, there were more than 6,000 photo-heavy how-tos on its website, two-thirds of them generated wiki-style by the company's global community of around 50,000 fixers. (Millions more use the site but don't contribute content.)

Fixing stuff, Wiens and Soules argue, is the ultimate act of rebellion against our consumerist culture. iFixit's repair manifesto, available as a poster, holds several truths to be self-evident—some practical ("Repair saves you money"), some principled ("Repair saves the planet"), and some profound ("If you can't fix it, you don't own it").

To understand why they believe that repairing gadgets can change the world, it's instructive to take another look at that vivisected iPad 3. During my recent visit to the iFixit headquarters, Wiens shows me one with a demolished display, the glass a spiderweb of cracks, the rim fractured and chiseled. It's one of several iPads the iFixit techs destroyed while searching for a simple way to take it apart.

In a cardboard box next to it are the pieces of another tablet, Google's Nexus 7, which the techs had disassembled with a few twists of the screwdriver and a little coaxing with a spudger. They gave the device a 7 for repairability, noting that it was merely a millimeter thicker than the iPad 3 but infinitely easier to fix. Which might not matter when you first buy it, but it might after you drop it on the sidewalk. "If you have a cracked windshield, are you going to throw your car away?" Wiens asks rhetorically. "I've spent more on every computer I've ever bought than on any car I've ever bought. If I'm going to fix my car, why wouldn't I fix my computer?"

Throwaway gadgets generate stupendous amounts of waste—we toss 20 to 50 million metric tons of electronics annually, the United Nations estimates—and recycling only reclaims a fraction of that. Also wasted is the energy used to create the products in the first place. (Apple attributes 61 percent of its products' carbon footprint to mining and manufacturing.) "The only solution we're going to have to fix our planet," Wiens muses, "is to mine less and to make less." (Click here to read about iFixit's just-released chemical analysis of the top-selling smart phones.)

Not surprisingly, iFixit is revered in green-tech and hacker circles, and reviled among fanboys who argue that Apple should be left to design things as it sees fit. Its headquarters has an ecostartup aesthetic, complete with bike racks (any employee who wants one is given a bike), bottles of homebrewed beer, and photos of kids tending smoldering piles of e-waste. Its manuals, however, are largely written and refined not by the hipsters of Brooklyn or the gadget geeks of Silicon Valley but by rural people in places like Texas and Florida and the Midwest who may not find it quite so easy, or affordable, to head over to the nearest Apple store when something breaks.

"This is not an ecosensitive thing they're doing," Wiens insists as we sit in his office looking at a map showing where iFixit's far-flung authors are based. (He rarely makes a point without pulling out some data to back it up.) "They don't identify themselves with some big repair, anti-manufacturer movement," he says. "They're just solving problems."

Wiens is harder to pigeonhole. With his thick glasses and mild manners, he doesn't seem too different from any young engineer who likes to take things apart. But talk to him for a few minutes and the polymath emerges. In the past year, he's taken a film crew to Cairo and Nairobi to document informal repair economies, blogged for The Atlantic and the Harvard Business Review on subjects ranging from mineral mining to grammar, and testified before the International Trade Commission about electronics recycling.

A conversation with him feels a bit like a one-on-one TED talk, complete with visuals. In the course of one discussion he shows me the history of Apple's self-reporting on its carbon footprint ("The problem is not lack of recycling, or e-waste—it's mining and manufacturing"), a Chinese repair manual that cribbed photos from iFixit.com ("Please, take our manual and use it to fix things!"), a blog post including schematic circuit diagrams for the iPhone ("No repair shops in America have this, but all the repair shops in China have it"), and research by a British sociologist on Ugandan cellphone repair networks ("Far more informal recycling is happening than anyone has any idea of!"). iFixit may basically be an electronics parts shop, but it's a parts shop with big ideas. "This is kind of a life ambition," Wiens says. "To change the way we consume things."

iFixit got its start in 2003 after Wiens and Soules tried to repair some old laptops in their Cal Poly dorm room and couldn't find any parts or instructions. So they cannibalized a broken computer they found on eBay—many of their parts are still obtained chop-shop style—and began writing their own how-tos, testing them on art students for user-friendliness. Eventually, they started posting the instructions online and selling the needed parts and tools—including some (like the spudger) of their own design. By the time they graduated, in 2005, their business was generating $1 million in sales.

At the time, they were just hoping to cover their tuition. Wiens envisioned himself moving on to important projects that would improve people's lives and hopefully make the world a better place. But as the grateful emails poured in, it occurred to him that iFixit already fit that bill perfectly. The environment, in his view, can only handle so much abuse for the sake of our high-tech conveniences. "I think all 7 billion people on Earth should have a cellphone," he explains. "But if we all have a cellphone, we have to replace them much less frequently."

Wiens concedes that changing people's habits is an uphill battle. "We're fighting some innate psychological tendencies where we get an endorphin boost from buying things," he says. But his hope is that teaching us how to fix things might deliver its own endorphin boost. It's not that far-fetched. Back home the day after my iFixit field trip, I sat down with my 13-year-old, a set of the company's tiny screwdrivers, and a dead iPod Touch he'd scavenged from a friend. It turned out we didn't even need tools. Within a few minutes, we'd revived the thing and my son was proudly loading it up with music. "That's where the viral spread has come from," Wiens had explained to me earlier. "We teach our customers to do amazing things. Once you've figured out how to repair your computer, you're going to tell all your friends that they can do it too."

North Dakota’s Norway Experiment

Can humane prisons work in America? A red state aims to find out.

Source: Mother Jones.

Late one night in October 2015, North Dakota prisons chief Leann Bertsch met Karianne Jackson, one of her deputies, for a drink in a hotel bar in Oslo, Norway. They had just spent an exhausting day touring Halden, the maximum-security facility Time has dubbed “the world’s most humane prison,” yet neither of them could sleep.

Halden is situated in a remote forest of birch, pine, and spruce with an understory of blueberry shrubs. The prison is surrounded by a single wall. It has no barbed wire, guard towers, or electric fences. Prisoners stay in p

The Uncomfortable Truth About Children's Books

Attempts to diversify lily-white kid lit have been, well, complicated.

Source: Mother Jones.

One afternoon last fall, I found myself reading my picture book The Sea Serpent and Me to a group of schoolchildren in the island nation of Grenada. The story is about a little girl who befriends a tiny serpent that falls out of her bathroom faucet. I had thought it would appeal to children who lived by the sea, but as I looked at their uncomprehending faces, I realized how wrong I was. It wasn't just my American accent and unfamiliar vocabulary, but the story's central dilemma: The girl wants to kee

The Fire on the 57 Bus in Oakland

Source: The New York Times Magazine. Published January 2015.

It was close to 5 o’clock on the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2013, and Sasha Fleischman was riding the 57 bus home from school. An 18-year-old senior at a small private high school, Sasha wore a T-shirt, a black fleece jacket, a gray newsboy cap and a gauzy white skirt. For much of the long bus ride through Oakland, Calif., Sasha — who identifies as agender, neither male nor female — had been reading a paperback copy of “Anna Karenina,” but eventually the teenager drifted into sleep, skirt draped over the edge of the bus seat.

As Sasha slept, three teenage boys laughed and joked nearby. Then one surreptitiously fli

These Guys Can Make Your iPhone Last Forever

Behind the scenes at iFixit, where DIY repair is more than just a business.

Source: Mother Jones. Published November/December 2012.

IN MARCH, ONE DAY BEFORE THE RELEASE of the iPad 3, iFixit cofounder Luke Soules traveled 17 hours from San Luis Obispo, California, to Melbourne, Australia, so that he could be the first person in the world—literally—to purchase one. Then, wielding a heat gun, some high-powered suction cups, eight guitar picks, a Phillips screwdriver, and a flat-headed tool called a spudger, he proceeded to gut the thi

How Dangerous is your Couch?

Source: New York Times. Published 6 September 2012.

In September 1976, a mail runner from Katmandu arrived at Base Camp on Mount Everest with a package for Dr. Arlene Blum, a member of the American Bicentennial Everest Expedition. The package had nothing to do with the climb, or Blum's status as the first American woman to attempt the world's highest peak. It concerned pajamas. Inside were the proofs of an article she co-wrote for the journal Science about a chemical then widely used in children's sleepwear. The subtitle was unusually blunt for a scientific paper: "The main flame retardant in children's pajamas is a mutagen and should not be used."

The article ran the following Jan

Is Jousting the Next Extreme Sport?

Source: The New York Times. Published 8 July 2010.

The gates of the Gulf Coast International Jousting Championships opened at 6 p.m. one Friday in January at a 4,500-seat arena 13 miles outside Pensacola, Fla. Some of the spectators were dressed in leather doublets and velvet gowns; some wore jeans and cowboy hats or American-flag-patterned do-rags. Most seemed to have come out of idle curiosity rather than any previous knowledge of the sport. "From what I hear, the combat's going to be smackin'," a man named Paul Johnson told me, punching his knuckles together. He estimated he had seen the movie "A Knight's Tale" a couple dozen times, and he hoped this event would measure up. He lean

California on the Brink

The Golden State has become a wasteland of unemployment and budget deficits. Now legislators are cutting holes in what's left of the safety net.

Source: Newsweek. Published 28 August 2011.

Toni Sevchuck knows that budgeting is about making tough choices: taxes vs. cuts, parks vs. prisons, health care vs. schools. But as California's austere new state budget goes into effect, the 47-year-old mostly deaf single mother is finding that her own options have run out. "I don't get to make choices," she says. "I don't have the money to make choices with."

The state's Medicaid program, called Medi-Cal in California, stopped covering dental care in 200

Public Corporations Shall Take Us Seriously

Source: The New York Times. Published 12 August 2007.

The ring tone on Sister Patricia Daly's cellphone is the "Hallelujah" chorus from Handel's "Messiah," which makes every call sound as if it's coming from God. On the particular May afternoon, however, David Henry, who handles investor relations for the ExxonMobil Corporation, was on the line. Henry wanted to know if Daly planned to attend the annual shareholder meeting later that month — a rhetorical question, really, since Daly had been at every one of them for the past 10 years. At each she posed roughly the same question: What is ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, planning to do

The Frog of War

When biologist Tyrone Hayes discovered that a top-selling herbicide messes with sex hormones, its manufacturer went into battle mode. Thus began one of the weirdest feuds in the history of science.

Source: Mother Jones. Published January/February 2012.

DARNELL LIVES DEEP IN the basement of a life sciences building at the University of California-Berkeley, in a plastic tub on a row of stainless steel shelves. He is an African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, sometimes called the lab rat of amphibians. Like most of his species, he's hardy and long-lived, an adept swimmer, a poor crawler, and a voracious eater. He's a good breeder, too, having produced both child

Where are the jobs?

Scenes from California's Job Club

Romney says Obama "gutted" welfare reform by waiving work requirements. But what if there's no work to be found?

Source: Salon

As we stood in line at a Burger King in Sacramento, Calif., Joe Sisco gave me a nudge. “Look at the age of the people who are here right now,” he said and cocked his chin toward the three women behind the counter, each several decades past the age when manning the deep fryer might seem like a good career move. “That’s the economy, right here.”

At 55, Sisco was no spring chicken himself. And having been out of work for a couple of years, he’d had plenty of opportunity to study the job market. I had met him at

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