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Royal, J. (2017). A Murder over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High, by Ken Corbett, PhD, New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2016, 273 pp., $27.00. Psychoanal. Psychol., 34(3):372-374.
(2017). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 34(3):372-374
A Murder over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High, by Ken Corbett, PhD, New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2016, 273 pp., $27.00
Review by: Jason Royal, Ph.D.
On the morning of February 12, 2008, in a junior-high classroom in Oxnard, California, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney drew a .22-caliber revolver out of his pocket, stood, aimed, and shot 15-year-old Larry King in the back of the head at close range, killing him. The murder was witnessed by the boys' teacher and classmates. A putative motive was that, Larry, who was transgender, had asked Brandon, days prior, in front of peers, to be his Valentine. This murder, and the trial and controversy that followed, ultimately made national headlines, reaching media outlets from the Ellen DeGeneres Show to Newsweek and ABC's news magazine 20/20.
In A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High, Ken Corbett—a psychologist, psychoanalyst, and author of Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities (Corbett, 2009), as well as numerous articles on sexuality and gender—gives an eye-witness account of the 2011 trial of Brandon McInerney, charged as an adult for the murder of Larry King. What emerges is a deeply unsettling, often poignant picture of Larry and Brandon, their families, and events surrounding the murder. Here, trauma begets trauma, and Corbett's rendering shows the struggle of individuals, the community, and the justice system to respond to trauma and its precursor in this case, hate, when both reason and emotion fail as guides. Along with issues of gender identity and sexuality, Corbett's tale unfolds against a background of race—Larry is black, Brandon white—class, and the “culture wars” over the place of difference and otherness in our society.
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