One Judge’s Order For Hate Crime Committers: Read More Books

A judge's "unusual sentence" included assigning books like “The Handmaid’s Tale."
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Earlier this week, WUSA9, a local news site in Ashburn, Virginia, reported that a group of teenage boys was given an “unusual sentence” after spray-painting a historically black school with racist and anti-Semitic language and symbols.  

Judge Alex Rueda ― who has librarians in her family ― saw the act as a “teachable moment,” and assigned the young men book and movie reports in lieu of community service or jail time. They will also have to do a research paper on swastikas and attend a Holocaust Museum with their parents.

The assigned films include “Twelve Years a Slave” and “Lincoln”; the books include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Bluest Eye, To Kill a Mockingbird and Native Son.

Newer classics including Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, the latter of which won last year’s National Book Award, were featured on the list, too.

After last year’s presidential election, there was a spike in hate crimes nationwide, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. There’s been a 42 percent increase in anti-Muslim groups since 2014, and a 14 percent increase in the total number of hate groups since the same year. Due to these increases, the American Library Association has started tracking hate crimes in libraries, including those situated in schools.

But precisely how these crimes will be adjudicated is another matter. Studies do show that people who read books are more empathetic, but whether that’s causation or merely correlation is tough to control for. Regardless, versing teens in works by writers of color and women writers can only better their understanding of the world.

11 Great Debut Novels
'Wolf In White Van' by John Darnielle(01 of 11)
"A pop culture-infused novel that thoughtfully and nonjudgmentally considers the dark side of nerddom." A man badly disfigured in a gun accident ponders gaming, heavy metal, family, love and the crazed emotions that tend to surround our obsessions. Read full book review.
'Otherbound' by Corinne Duyvis(02 of 11)
"Original and compelling; a stunning debut. (Fantasy. 14 & up)" Worlds collide as two teens fight for their lives. Read full book review.
'Love Me Back' by Merritt Tierce(03 of 11)
"The cold and honest confessions of a damaged young woman who lives to serve." An emotionally barren waitress hustles her way through life, dulled by sex, drugs and self-inflicted burns. Read full book review.
'Gabi, A Girl In Pieces' by Isabel Quintero(04 of 11)
"A fresh, authentic and honest exploration of contemporary Latina identity. (Fiction. 14 & up)" Struggles with body image, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, rape, coming out, first love and death are all experiences that touch Gabi's life in some way during her senior year, and she processes her raw and honest feelings in her journal as these events unfold. Read full book review.
'The Invention Of Exile' by Vanessa Manko(05 of 11)
"A top-notch debut, at once sober and lively and provocative." A man separated from his family for years reckons with his isolation in Manko's debut, a superb study of statelessness. Read full book review.
'Rites Of Passage' by Joy N. Hensley(06 of 11)
"Absolutely compelling. (Fiction. 14-18)" The absorbing story of the first girl to join a fictional military high school. Read full book review.
'Bird Box' by Josh Malerman(07 of 11)
"An unsettling thriller, this earns comparisons to Hitchcock's The Birds, as well as the finer efforts of Stephen King and cult sci-fi fantasist Jonathan Carroll." In Malerman's chilling debut, an apocalyptic reality befalls a Michigan river community—and who knows how much of the rest of civilization—in the form of creatures that cause people who merely look at them to go mad and kill themselves. Read full book review.
'An Untamed State' by Roxane Gay(08 of 11)
"A cutting and resonant debut." A harrowing and emotionally clear-eyed vision of one woman's ordeal during and after her kidnapping in Haiti. Read full book review.
'Sway' by Kat Spears(09 of 11)
"A compelling debut told with swagger and real depth. (Fiction. 14-18)" Everybody knows Jesse, aka "Sway." For the right price or a later favor, Jesse will get you want you want, but he'll also acquire power over you. Read full book review.
'A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall' by Will Chancellor(10 of 11)
"Some readers may stumble over the Latin, argot and allusions, but these are minor challenges in Chancellor's polymorphous entertainment." A father searches for his vanished son in this edgily comic first novel, which has fun with the worlds of art and academia. Read full book review.
'The Chance You Won't Return' by Annie Cardi(11 of 11)
"An honest, uncompromising story. (Fiction. 14 & up)" Cardi delves into issues of love, acceptance, loss and identity in her engaging debut novel. Read full book review.
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