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A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High (edition 2016)

by Ken Corbett (Author)

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6319188,983 (3.71)2
Member:grunin
Title:A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High
Authors:Ken Corbett (Author)
Info:Henry Holt and Co. (2016), 288 pages
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A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High by Ken Corbett

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Her name was Letitia

A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High by Ken Corbett (Henry Holt & Company, $27).

When Brandon McInerney shot a student known as Larry King twice in the head in their middle school computer room in Oxnard, Calif., in 2008, that was just the middle of a story of difference, fear, violence, and adolescence in the 21st century.

Ken Corbett, an NYU professor and clinical psychologist specializing in gender-nonconforming boys, attended McInerney’s 2011 trial and spoke to many of the survivors of this murder; his insights and observations in A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High are both personal and profound for readers. More an informed memoir than an act of journalism, A Murder Over a Girl introduces a new character into the story as well: Letitia, which was the name King had chosen and begun to use only a few days before the shooting.

Corbett’s coverage of the trial is a heartbreaking story of two kids who desperately needed the guidance and acceptance of calm, secure adults in their lives–and who didn’t get it. That lack ended up with one child dead and another on trial for murder.

More frightening–because it involves so-called adults and the judicial system–is how Corbett leads us to see that McInerney’s “gay panic” defense, ably executed by his legal counsel and accepted without question in a trans- and homophobic community, resulted in a mistrial.

Complex, nuanced and compassionate, this is a necessary book, especially as “trans panic” reaches new heights in the rise of the “bathroom wars” and our culture insists on portraying the victims of violence as its perpetrators.

Reviewed on Lit/Rant: www.litrant.tumblr.com ( )
  KelMunger | Jul 14, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

This book was not as compelling as I expected it to be. It doesn't quite read like a gripping courtroom drama, and I can't put my finger exactly on why not. Perhaps I just got frustrated with the case itself - I'm sure anyone who reads this is going to have strong opinions on what the outcome should have been. I appreciated the moments when Corbett extrapolated on the case to explore the various issues involved, but sometimes things felt a bit unfinished - the discussion of a hate crime never felt fully fleshed out to me. An interesting read, but not quite what I expected. ( )
  booksandbosox | Jul 1, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book chronicles the trial of 14-year-old Brandon who is accused of first degree murder in a hate crime against his 15-year-old transgender classmate named Larry/Leticia in 2011 in California. It's no wonder this book reads like somewhat of a research paper due to the fact the author is a psychologist who studies boyhood behavior based out of NYC.

This murder caught the attention of the author and he decided to travel to CA to observe the trial and speak to as many key players and family member as he could. He did research on the two families involved, delving into the history of the two boys involved, both surviving abuse and neglect by drug-addicted parents, both having somewhat unstable home lives. I found this information and the descriptions of these boys' home lives to be particularly sad and disturbing. No wonder both these boys were troubled and acting out.

Due to the fact that Brandon would not speak during the entire trial, nor directly to the author of this book; and that Larry/Leticia is no longer able to tell his side of the story, this book is low on details of what was happening between the two boys prior to the day of the shooting. Many interviews and witnesses talked about these two, however testimony proved contradictory and witnesses didn't feel confident in their interpretations of events. I would really have liked to have heard more about what led up to the shooting, but unfortunately there wasn't really any way to know more facts about their shared history.

The bulk of the book details the trial and the people who participate in the trial. The author details the events without injecting judgment or blame. An interested third party, looking for truth and motivation, not laying anything on any of the players in this scene.

I found the outcome of the trial to be anti-climactic but was somewhat satisfied by what comes next. I was glad to have won a copy of this book via LibraryThing. ( )
  mandersj73 | May 29, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really liked the pace of this book. It was a bit slow, and it did drag just a little towards the middle/end of the story, but it was a real-time look at the trial itself. I appreciated all the detail that was given, and how we learned about both of these children through just the testimonies of their friends and classmates. It was a very interesting and tragic story about two troubled boys just trying to get through the hardest part of being a kid - junior high. ( )
  egsanford | May 12, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book, or my review itself.

This was a frustrating, heartbreaking, infuriating, tragic, terrifying read that I could not put down.

It is the situation the readers must engage with-the murder of a young transgender girl, in her classroom, by a young male classmate-that brings up all these emotions. As a teacher myself, and an ally for LGBT rights, the idea that people could not only defend the murderous actions but make the victim out to be responsible for her own death, was at times almost more than I could handle. I found myself getting so angry the farther I got in the book, and I still feel that anger now, hours after I read the last page.

Corbett, a psychologist himself, does a good job of highlighting the complexities of the case. His research, courtroom observations, and interviews cover the childhood abuse the perpetrator suffered, the conflicting arguments for trying a juvenile offender as an adult, and the constructs of gender and racial identity in our modern culture.

Where Corbett goes astray, in my opinion, is the sections where he starts philosophizing. When he is writing about what he has seen during the trial, his writing style is on point, making the reader feel like they are there with him. But when he allows himself to go off on tangents about what he personally thinks regarding the topics he is covering, his sentences become overly flowery, convoluted, and sometimes even preachy.

I reacted to this book the way I did, at least in part, because of what I bring to the table in terms of my own personal beliefs and experiences. Not every reader may respond the same way. But regardless, this is an important read, particularly as we live in a time when these questions of guilt, violence, culpability, and identity are at the forefront of our society. ( )
  seasonsoflove | Apr 6, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805099204, Hardcover)

A psychologist's gripping, troubling, and moving exploration of the brutal murder of a possibly transgender middle school student by an eighth grade classmate

On Feb. 12, 2008, at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, CA, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot and killed his classmate, Larry King, who had recently begun to call himself "Leticia" and wear makeup and jewelry to school.

Profoundly shaken by the news, and unsettled by media coverage that sidestepped the issues of gender identity and of race integral to the case, psychologist Ken Corbett traveled to LA to attend the trial. As visions of victim and perpetrator were woven and unwoven in the theater of the courtroom, a haunting picture emerged not only of the two young teenagers, but also of spectators altered by an atrocity and of a community that had unwittingly gestated a murder. Drawing on firsthand observations, extensive interviews and research, as well as on his decades of academic work on gender and sexuality, Corbett holds each murky facet of this case up to the light, exploring the fault lines of memory and the lacunae of uncertainty behind facts. Deeply compassionate, and brimming with wit and acute insight, A Murder Over a Girl is a riveting and stranger-than-fiction drama of the human psyche.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 08 Dec 2015 20:34:57 -0500)

"A psychologist's gripping, troubling, and moving exploration of the brutal murder of a possibly transgender middle school student by an eighth grade classmate. On Feb. 12, 2008, at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, CA, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot and killed his classmate, Larry King, who had recently begun to call himself "Leticia" and wear makeup and jewelry to school. Profoundly shaken by the news, and unsettled by media coverage that sidestepped the issues of gender identity and of race integral to the case, psychologist Ken Corbett traveled to LA to attend the trial. As visions of victim and perpetrator were woven and unwoven in the theater of the courtroom, a haunting picture emerged not only of the two young teenagers, but also of spectators altered by an atrocity and of a community that had unwittingly gestated a murder. Drawing on firsthand observations, extensive interviews and research, as well as on his decades of academic work on gender and sexuality, Corbett holds each murky facet of this case up to the light, exploring the fault lines of memory and the lacunae of uncertainty behind facts. Deeply compassionate, and brimming with wit and acute insight, A Murder Over a Girl is a riveting and stranger-than-fiction drama of the human psyche"--… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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