Dead End Kids: Gang Girls and the Boys They Know

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Dead End Kids exposes both the depravity and the humanity in gang life through the eyes of a teenaged girl named Cara, a member of a Kansas City gang. In this shocking yet compassionate account, Mark Fleisher shows how gang girls’ lives are shaped by poverty, family disorganization, and parental neglect.

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Mehren
Most of society has given up on these girls. Mark Fleisher shows us why this is a tragic mistake. -- Los Angeles Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As this strong but flawed study of gang girls in Kansas City shows, gangs are as pervasive and dangerous in the heartland as on the coasts. Fleisher's street ethnography follows the life of a girl called Cara over several years, but 38 other "major players" move in and out of Cara's life, and the sheer number clouds the narrative. Gang girls are usually from lower socioeconomic backgrounds; were often abused as children, then by male gang members as young adults; and live lives shattered by drugs, assaults, unplanned pregnancies and sporadic police contact. The author hung around with gang members, listening, recording and trying to tiptoe the line between objective observer and sympathetic participant. His accomplishment as a researcher is impressive. The best street ethnographies, however, like Elliott Liebow's Tally's Corner, have been more selective in presentation of material. Tragedies are emotionally diluted for readers after the same victimization occurs to a girl seven times. Also, conversations transcribed in dialect seem forced and phonetic word spellings become intrusive at times. Fortunately, the author's skill as a researcher consistently prevails. A final chapter advances the methodology of street ethnography and places the study in a broader perspective. Fleisher, a cultural anthropologist, criminal ethnographer and former administrator in the Federal Bureau of Prisons who now teaches criminal justice sciences at Illinois State, clearly cares about his subjects. When he writes, "What truly matters to me is the actual resolution of these problems and the material improvement of kids' lives," it is believable. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“Most of society has given up on these girls. Dead End Kids shows us why this is a tragic mistake.”—Elizabeth Mehren, national correspondent, Los Angeles Times

“A lively, compelling tale of urban misery and dashed hope, Fleisher’s work humanizes gang girls and identifies the psychological, cultural, and social forces that condemn the distaff side of America’s [gangs] to their dead-end lives.”—Donna Gaines, Village Voice Literary Supplement

“Fleisher aptly describes the economic and social pressures that contribute to gang formation, youth violence, teen pregnancy, and other social ills plaguing U.S. cities.”—Vanessa Bush, Booklist

“I recommend it to all who want to understand the dynamics of inner-city life and the reasons that current crime and poverty programs cannot succeed.  If middle-class America could digest its core ideas, dramatic changes in policy might result.”—Jim Quinn, Law and Politics Book Review

Dead End Kids is an important and exceptional study. Anyone who cares about young people should read it and feel compelled to take action.”—Jody Miller, Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299158842
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark S. Fleisher is a cultural anthropologist and criminal ethnographer, a former administrator in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and an associate professor of criminal justice sciences at Illinois State University. He is the author of the award-winning Beggars and Thieves: Lives of Urban Street Criminals, published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and of Warehousing Violence.

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