In technique and impact the equivalent of a Fred Wiseman documentary, depicting one of the saddest and baddest subcultures...

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8 BALL CHICKS: A Year in the Violent World of Girl Gangsters

In technique and impact the equivalent of a Fred Wiseman documentary, depicting one of the saddest and baddest subcultures of the social underbelly in a serial montage of girl ""gang-bangers"" (street-fighters) from Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Milwaukee, showing and telling it like it is. Or like Sikes says it is--and the question of authenticity does persist: How did her presence as a white, upscale journalist (who says she did not pay for stories) affect the apparent cooperation, not to mention the trust, she elicited from minority teenagers bursting with rage? She says that they talked in the hope of making a difference; presumably they bought her argument that society won't marshal the resources to expand their options until we get to know these girls as individuals, and options, Sikes argues, are the bottom line. We do get to know them as individuals, yet their considerable staying power is collective: ""In a world of second-class citizens, they remain third-class,"" scarred by beatings and by sexual abuse from the men in their mothers' lives as well as their own. They are mothers themselves, early, and are, or were, users or sellers of cocaine; they are runaways/prostitutes/killers/thieves, utterly numb to brutality and committed to living in a state of siege. The 8 Ball Chicks of the title are the ladies' auxiliary of a male gang in San Antonio, where machismo licenses group rape as part of the initiation ritual. And biology is destiny, even when it comes to dying: Overwhelmingly, girls are ""left behind to pick up the pieces, to scrape together money for all the funerals, to raise their children without fathers."" Sikes, a journalist who specializes in youth culture, prompts as many visions of healing as versions of despair from the homegirls she hangs out with. They bear out her contention that we do have to listen. At least.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 1997

ISBN: 0385474326

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996