Sikes, Gini 1957–

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Sikes, Gini 1957–

PERSONAL: Given name is pronounced "Gin-ee"; born December 5, 1957, in Wausau, WI; daughter of Rex (an optometrist) and Mary Jane (an optometrist) Sikes; married David Conrad (a writer and graphic designer), October 5, 1996. Ethnicity: "White." Education: University of Missouri, B.A., 1980; Columbia University, M.S., 1983. Hobbies and other interests: Puppetry, learning American Sign Language.

ADDRESSES: Home—Brooklyn, NY. Agent—Laurie Fox, Linda Chester Agency, 2342 Shattuck Ave., No. 506, Berkeley, CA 94704. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Metropolis, senior editor and staff writer, 1983–86; Mademoiselle, entertainment editor and senior writer, 1986–88; freelance writer, 1988–. Independent television director and producer for Music Television (news and documentaries), Video Hits One, Public Broadcasting System, The Learning Channel, and Discovery Health, 1989–. Adjunct writing professor at Columbia University. Voice of America Radio, freelance correspondent, 2005–.

MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America, Cinewomen, Sisters in Crime.

AWARDS, HONORS: John D. Knight fellowship, 2000; Prism Commendation for exceptional achievement in coverage of drug and alcohol abuse, for True Life: I'm Hooked on OxyContin; Maggie Award for exceptional achievement in media coverage of reproductive rights and health care issues, Planned Parenthood, for True Life: I Need Sex Rx.

WRITINGS:

Eight Ball Chicks: A Year in the Violent World of Girl Gangsters, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Contributor to magazine and newspapers, including New York Times, Washington Post, Mirabella, Vibe, Interview, Self, Harper's Bazaar, US, Glamour, Seventeen, Travel and Leisure, and TV Guide.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A "slightly dark, but comic, novel."

SIDELIGHTS: In Eight Ball Chicks: A Year in the Violent World of Girl Gangsters New York-based journalist Gini Sikes reports on female gang activity in urban communities. To research her book, Sikes spent a year visiting with teenage gang members in New York as well as in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and San Antonio. She discovered that girl gangs are "as violent and dangerous as their male counterparts," wrote Library Journal critic Sandra K. Lindheimer. "My first exposure to gang girls was while writing an article for Vibe magazine on the subject," Sikes told an interviewer on the Random House Bold Type Web site. "I met a posse of girls on Manhattan's Lower East Side called the Nasty Fly Ladies, or NFL. One of the girls' face was scarred from a fight with another girl who had a razor blade concealed in her mouth. These girls were pretty tough."

The gang members interviewed for Eight Ball Chicks "tell excruciating stories of parental abandonment, gang-rape initiation rituals, sadistic boyfriends, teen motherhood, and the hatred of femininity that permeates gang culture," observed Naomi Klein in Ms. "Yet, for all the horror" in the work, "what stays with the reader is the fear and despair" that permeates the girls' lives, noted a critic in Glamour. As Sikes commented in her Bold Type online interview, "We've basically abandoned a generation of kids—by cutting recreational programs, allowing schools to deteriorate, offering no employment—to choose between a set of increasingly bleak options. Gangs become a 'job' for kids who have nothing to do."

"Sikes cannot offer pat answers or solutions, nor should she," wrote Donna Seaman in a Booklist review of Eight Ball Chicks; instead, noted Publishers Weekly critic Genevieve Stuttaford, the author "offers a convincing, unsettling view of a domain that most would as soon avoid."

Sikes told CA: "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 on the road, going back and forth between New York and one of three cities: Los Angeles, Milwaukee, or San Antonio. Sleeping at the homes of friends or relatives, I would spend the entire day with the girls—in their homes, at parties, going to visit men in jail, taking them to planned parenthood appointments, hanging out with boys, cruising 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 nosing around is automatically assumed to be an undercover cop (or there to score drugs). 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 bandana) on the back of my radio antenna. 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 Los Angeles sheriff's department gang unit. I followed deputies through a sprawling apartment complex where a gunman was on the loose with a Mac-ten machine gun—and I was the only one without a bulletproof vest. Then we 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 to what life was like for many gang kids. Suicides and shootings are an everyday occurrence in their world."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 1996, Donna Seaman, review of Eight Ball Chicks: A Year in the Violent World of Girl Gangsters.

Chicago Tribune, May 11, 1997, Jody Miller, "Two Authors Look at Girls, Gangs, and Violence," p. 6.

Elle, January, 1997, review of Eight Ball Chicks.

Emerge, March, 1997, Victoria Valentine, "Not Just Sugar 'n' Spice," p. 75.

Glamour, January, 1997, "Gangstas Rap."

Library Journal, December, 1996, Sandra K. Lindheimer, review of Eight Ball Chicks, p. 122.

Ms., March-April, 1997, Naomi Klein, review of Eight Ball Chicks, p. 82.

New York Times Magazine, December 15, 1996, "Bad Girls, Dead Girls."

Publishers Weekly, November 4, 1996, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Eight Ball Chicks, p. 53.

School Library Journal, September, 1997, Frances Reiher, review of Eight Ball Chicks, p. 241.

ONLINE

Bold Type Web site, http://www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/ (May 10, 2005), interview with Sikes.

Gini Sikes Home Page, http://home.earthlink.net/~eightballchicks (May 10, 2005).