March 17, 2008 12:00 PM

by Margaret B. Jones |



In prose that has the shocking, sudden impact of a gunshot, Jones recalls her childhood in South Central Los Angeles’ gang territory. At age 8, after a long line of foster homes, she landed in the loving arms of churchgoing “domestic superwoman” Big Mom, who was already raising four grandchildren. But Big Mom’s good intentions couldn’t compete with the lure of the Bloods, and soon Jones was selling drugs and making prison visits. Family life intersected with violence and crime: For her 13th birthday, she received a homemade cake, a Run-DMC cassette and her own .38. At the encouragement of a teacher she applied to college, eventually graduating from the University of Oregon. Now 33, Jones lives in Oregon, mentors inner-city youth and keeps in touch with former comrades still caught up in a pattern she describes as “slow-motion genocide.” That she escaped to tell this raw, compelling, important tale is a gift to us all.

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