Eight-Ball Chicks:

A Year in the Violent World of Girl Gangsters by Gini Sikes

A chronicle of a year spent living with female gang members in Los Angeles, San Antonio and Milwaukee.
Available now in paperback from Anchor/Doubleday Books. READ AN EXCERPT.

"Bleak, richly reported"--New York Times Magazine

"...shocking, admirable...Gini Sikes gets at the hearts and minds -- and violence of home girls in an urban killing field"--Elle

"...for all the horror in this account of gang girls what stays with the reader is the fear and despair that lie at the bottom of these girls' seeming hearts of stone."--Glamour

Interview with the Author

How did this story originate?

"In June 1992 Time magazine came out with a cover story about a trend in movies that depicted beautiful female killers such as Fatal Attraction, Thelma and Louise, Basic Instinct. I was interested in whether women were really becoming more violent or if this was a new take on an old Hollywood formula. I went into women's prisons on both coasts interviewing inmates convicted of homicide. It didn't matter whether the women were black, white or Latina or if they were a 76-year-old grandmother or a beautiful 24-year-old woman. Their stories all sounded the same. In one irreparable moment they had killed an abusive spouse or boyfriend. The vast majority of murders committed by women were the result of domestic violence."

"From the FBI, I learned that women accounted for 12 to 15 percent of all homicide, a figure that hadn't changed in three decades. Then a deputy in a women's jail in L.A. told me if I wanted to examine a female population that did seem to be experiencing a rise in violence I should check out teenage girls in gangs. One of the first girls I met revealed to me that she committed her crimes dressed as a boy. Girls, she told me, were just as violent and criminal as boys, they were just smarter about it and 'more sneaky.'"

"Thus began a long odyssey into the world of girl gangsters."


Did the book involve special research or travel?

"The book took three years from conception to publishing. I initially researched gangs by extensive reading and through interviews with experts, police officers, clergy and social workers and by attending gang conferences. Then I spent approximately a year and a half on the road, going back and forth between New York and one of three cities: Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and San Antonio. I would spend the entire day with the girls -- in their homes, at parties, going to visit their men in jail, taking them to planned parenthood appointments, cruising together in my car."

"The most dangerous aspect was not associating with the girls, who knew me, but being taken for a cop or a narc by people who didn't. In many areas of South Central, any strange white person is automatically assumed to be an undercover cop. The other risk was being perceived as sympathetic to one gang by its rivals. In San Antonio, the gang world I investigated was very small; everyone knows each other. Kids would tag their gang names in the dust of my rental car or tie their rag (a colored bandanna) on the back of my antennae. It was a little joke that could have resulted in my car being shot up as I drove into enemy territory."

"One evening I went out with the L.A. sheriff's department's gang unit. That night I followed deputies through a sprawling apartment complex where a gunman was on the lose with a Mac 10 machine gun -- and I was the only one without a bullet proof vest. We then pursued a teenage Crip who had just shot and paralyzed a man down the block. At the end of the night I gazed upon the shattered body of a woman who had just shot herself in the head after a domestic dispute. That evening opened my eyes as to what life was like for many gang kids; suicides and shootings are an everyday occurrence in their world."

Did writing this book change your view of gang girls?

"Before I embarked on this year of reporting for 8 Ball Chicks, I'd watch TV news reports of driveby shootings, and while I sympathized with the residents of the communities ravaged by such crime, I didn't identify with them. Over time, I discovered we that we had more in common than might be first imagined. Although race and class were great obstacles between us, I learned that people in the ghetto go to church, have barbecues in the park, love their children -- their everyday life mirroring conventional suburbia much more than many middle-class people would like to believe. I have heard hard-core gang girls use the word "love" to describe their bonds with their neighborhood and friends."

"I began this book in fear, but I ended it in hope. I liked these girls. Many of them, despite great adversity, chose not to become the career criminals maligned in the media. They left gangs through the sheer force of their own will. They were a constant source of inspiration."