Brooklyn Voices Recap: Ken Corbett Discusses ‘A Murder Over A Girl’

March 15, 2016

Ken CorbettBy Michelle Darris '18

As the third installment of the Spring 2016 Brooklyn Voices series, St. Joseph’s College and Greenlight Bookstore welcomed Ken Corbett to discuss A Murder Over A Girl, his newest novel. In addition to being a successful author, Corbett is Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Leading the conversation with Corbett was Pulitzer prize-winning playwright and activist Tony Kushner.

A Murder Over A Girl covers the 2008 murder of Larry King, a 15-year-old transgender teen. Larry, who preferred the name Leticia but was referred to as Larry during the murder trial, was shot in cold blood by his classmate Brandon McInerney during their 8:15 a.m. class in the computer laboratory. The case and its hateful nature shook the nation. Having read about Larry’s memorial service in The New York Times, Corbett decided to travel to California to attend the trial.

Tony Kushner and Ken Corbett

Author Ken Corbett (right) with Tony Kushner.

In heeding advice given to him by Joan Didion at a dinner party prior to his novel, Corbett made himself as small as possible. He sat in on every day of the trial and, observing the case through the lens of a psychologist, found that his questions were different than those of other crime reporters. He often went to lunch with these reporters and, while they discussed concrete concepts of right and wrong, his questions were psychoanalytical in nature.

It is this psychoanalytical perspective that contributes to the depth of his novel. Although it is a recount of the trial for the 2008 Oxnard, CA murder, A Murder Over A Girl manages to induce feelings of rage at the injustice of the trial. Corbett narrates the blatant courtroom distortion in the misrepresentation of both Brandon and Larry, giving an example of how a correctional officer refused to label a brutal fight Brandon had in a juvenile center as “violence.” Although race was deemed inadmissible in the case, Corbett points out that the name Leticia has racial connotations and that Larry “didn’t choose ‘Daisy’.”  

Corbett sat in on the trial for over two months, and flew back and forth to California for two years collecting interviews. It was important for Corbett to have his novel function as a story because of the rarity of "psychology speak" being brought to the public sphere. The target reader of his novel? "A mother who reads The New Yorker," he jokes.

Corebett’s novel covers themes of race, gun violence, and gender identity, so whether or not you're a mother or read The New Yorker, A Murder Over A Girl is a good, thought-provoking read.

Click here for the full spring 2016 Brooklyn Voices schedule.

Be sure to attend our next event:

Charles Bock

Charles Bock

Monday, April 11, 7:30 p.m.
Book launch: Charles Bock presents Alice & Oliver
In conversation with A.M. Homes
Tickets $28 (includes event admission and book)