Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed (Hardcover)
From the New York Times-bestselling author of The 57 Bus comes Accountable, a propulsive and thought-provoking true story about the revelation of a racist social media account that changes everything for a group of high school students and begs the question: What does it mean to be held accountable for harm that takes place behind a screen?
When a high school student started a private Instagram account that used racist and sexist memes to make his friends laugh, he thought of it as “edgy” humor. Over time, the edge got sharper. Then a few other kids found out about the account. Pretty soon, everyone knew.
Ultimately no one in the small town of Albany, California, was safe from the repercussions of the account’s discovery. Not the girls targeted by the posts. Not the boy who created the account. Not the group of kids who followed it. Not the adults—educators and parents—whose attempts to fix things too often made them worse.
In the end, no one was laughing. And everyone was left asking: Where does accountability end for online speech that harms? And what does accountability even mean?
Award-winning and New York Times–bestselling author Dashka Slater has written a must-read book for our era that explores the real-world consequences of online choices.
About the Author
Dashka Slater is the New York Times-bestselling author of The 57 Bus, which won the Stonewall Book Award and was a YALSA nonfiction finalist. Her fiction includes The Book of Fatal Errors, the picture book Escargot, which won the Wanda Gag Book Award; Baby Shoes; The Antlered Ship, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection and received four starred reviews; and Dangerously Ever After. She is also an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, and Mother Jones. She lives in California.
Junior Library Guild Selection
Amazon Best Book of the Month
San Francisco Chronicle Datebook 17 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Summer
“Award-winning journalist Dashka Slater (The 57 Bus) brilliantly dissects a true-crime story, exhibiting its different parts for readers and presenting a balanced narrative that illustrates the nuances inherent in all interpersonal interactions, whether in person or online . . . While readers' instinctive response may be to say Charles deserves what he gets, Slater's meticulous research from multiple perspectives highlights the difficulties of attempting to define absolute right and absolute wrong . . . Slater does not solve problems or answer the questions; instead, she scrupulously illustrates the complexity of this case, and reminds the audience that there are no quick fixes.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
“This meticulous retelling from Slater, author of the best-selling, Stonewall-winning The 57 Bus (2017), documents the ensuing events: shock, outrage, accusations, protests, threats, firings, lawsuits, and the aftermath . . . This is a compelling and contemporary cautionary tale that should be required reading for any teen before they create, comment, or even like a media post.” —Booklist, starred review
“Journalist and author Slater once again achieves another level of introspection about society through the lens of teen behavior . . . The shocking reality that Albany could be any town is what sustains the rabid interest in seeing how the story plays out since it touches on many aspects of contemporary culture . . . This is a well-timed page-turner due to Slater’s investigative reporting and must be read, shared, and discussed. Make this a priority purchase.” —School Library Journal, starred review
“In this gripping true story, Slater draws on her journalistic skills, utilizing interviews, court documents, social media and other sources to pull together a compelling full picture of an event that ripped apart a community and deeply impacted the lives of everyone involved. Short chapters keep the pace at a clip, as Slater’s reporting, direct quotes, and first-person poems document the emotional devastation and real world consequences over the following years of pain, flailing school administrators, protests, and lawsuits. No teen is absolved of their conduct, but everyone is understood and fully humanized . . . Perhaps Slater’s greatest feat is how successfully this nonfiction narrative informs about social media, racism, white supremacy, and restorative justice without veering into preachiness. She is able to cut to the core of the situation, searingly capturing raw pain and empathy for the harmed teens, providing enough distance to understand the complexity of the Instagram followers, and demonstrating what holding someone accountable looks like.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
“Award-winning journalist Dashka Slater (The 57 Bus) is brilliant at dissecting a true-crime story, exhibiting its different parts for readers, and relating a balanced narrative that illustrates the nuances inherent in all interpersonal interactions, in person or online . . . Slater ultimately shows readers that, while racist actions can be unconscious, they remain offensive and harmful, and the perpetrator should be held accountable. Silence, too, she communicates, is a form of condoning racism and contributes to the problem. But Slater does not solve problems or answer the questions; instead, she scrupulously illustrates the complexity of this case and reminds the audience that there are no quick fixes. This is a moving book with the power to make readers look deep within themselves for ways they can contribute to the solutions and keep from becoming a part of the problem . . . Journalist and author Dashka Slater expertly conducts a vivisection of an online racism scandal that reveals scars on the beating heart of a small town in California.” —Shelf Awareness
“The author of the acclaimed The 57 Bus (2017) delves into another complex story involving teens, personal choices, and societal forces . . . Slater’s thorough research includes candid interviews with those on both sides. She accessibly explores edgy meme culture, online hate speech, the students’ social dynamics, a disastrous mediation session, the school district’s actions, subsequent lawsuits, and how individuals were affected post-graduation. Short, punchy chapters offer interestingly varied formats and perspectives. The book will spark deep reflection on degrees of complicity, whether and when to forgive, what contributes to genuine remorse and change, and what parents and educators could have done differently . . . Thorough, thought-provoking, and all too relevant.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Slater (The 57 Bus) chronicles the fallout of a high schooler’s bigoted Instagram account in this emotionally raw work . . . Raising essential questions about accountability and complicity, this pertinent read encourages personal reflection and presents a balanced, non confrontational look into a situation that, as one student affirms, had gone ‘a little too far.’” —Publishers Weekly
“In Accountable, Dashka Slater offers a nuanced look at multiple notions of justice while magnifying the impact of racism on those harmed and those that caused the harm. This book is powerful, timely, and delicately written.” —Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times–bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
“Despite the plethora of books, both fiction and nonfiction, that take a stab at exploring American race-relations, I’ve never read anything like this one. Not only does Accountable reach far beyond Black and white, it gives readers—especially young ones—searing insight into the consequences of unchecked biases, both external and internalized. Again, Dashka Slater has gifted us with an immaculate page-turner of a book—made even more powerful by the fact that everything in it is true.” —Nic Stone, #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Dear Martin
“Accountable is a gripping look at the various impacts of racism, the gray areas of responsibility, and the boundaries of friendship. This is nonfiction at its finest.” —Brandy Colbert, award-winning author of Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
“An urgent read for every teen who uses social media. Dashka Slater has created a deeply researched, nuanced story about the intersection of old wounds and new technology—and how a few thoughtless moments can undo an entire community. It is an absolute page-turner, more powerful because every word in it is true. Slater is at the top of her game. Don’t miss this book.” —Martha Brockenbrough, award-winning author of Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary
“I cannot even begin to say how important Dashka Slater's book is. Certainly every teenager should read it as a condition of being on social media, but honestly? Adults—especially parents and educators—need to read it too. Slater has compellingly, sensitively, and usefully distilled crucial issues in the zeitgeist in a way that no one else has managed to do. Accountable is magnificent.” —Peggy Orenstein, author of the New York Times bestsellers Boys & Sex, Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter and Waiting for Daisy
“If I could pick a single book for a national book read it would be Slater’s just published Accountable . . . To read Accountable is to traverse a heartbreaking tragedy that deserves our deepest attempts at understanding. Remarkably it provides every reader with just that opportunity.” —Kenny Brechner, owner of DDG Booksellers, Publishers Weekly Shelf Talker
"Slater’s book is an eye-opener. Her ability to treat both the victims of the harassment and its perpetrators with compassion and understanding, without minimizing the culpabilities of the latter, is masterful." —Hank Reichman, Academe Blog