by Gini Sikes
Doubleday, December 1, 1996
Last night, I finished reading Gini Sikes' 8 Ball Chicks. The book is a study of female gang members in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, circa the mid-late 1990s. Sikes did a year of research, traveling around and talking to the girls themselves, their families, police, social workers, etc. Her level of involvement is amazing. She obviously cares about her "subjects" and her willingness to go into depth with them, and to examine herself as much as she is examining them, is truly inspirational. I will definitely look for other work she's done (I think she's a journalist and this is her only book, but I'm not certain).
The subject matter of the book is amazing and horrifying. I am totally aware that I grew up white and rural and privledged, but being aware of it in a vague way is different than reading these stories. The things some of these girls lived through before they were even in their late teens were truly worse than I could have imagined. And their cavalier attitudes about it all, the expectation that it wasn't going to go away and that was just the way life was...it chilled me. The common threads in their stories--abusive parents, sexual abuse at a young age, poverty, violent
relationships with boyfriends, pregnancy early and often--are the stuff stereotypes are made of, but when you read about it happening to someone specific, Coco or Alicia or Sad Eyes, it becomes something totally different. I think that speaks really well of Sikes' work.
I don't know where I am really going with this...I haven't gathered my thoughts about the book enough to write anything resembling an actual critique of it. I guess I just wanted to recommend it (with a huge trigger warning, because it is HARD to read). It's making me think a little bit differently about feminism this week.