“Innercity Girl Like Me” is a novel by Sabrina Bernardo, originally from Winnipeg. She gives a frightening, fascinating look at the world of gangs, in an innercity where only the smart will survive. It shines a bright light on the dark streets in Winnipeg. The novel tells the tale of Maria who survives her gang initiation - being beat on by four people for five minutes and not crying - and becomes known as G Child of the Diablos at the age of thirteen.
This is a gritty look at the desperate, dangerous world of 'thugs'. At nine and ten years old, Maria and her friends are hero worshipping the older members of gangs, “[They] wanted to be just like them”.
“Gangs in Winnipeg have reached third generation status, and these days, kids are exposed to gang affiliation from the very start. Its a vicious circle that never seems to be broken. Gang life is normal to a lot of us, especially when we see family members breaking the law” (P.19)
The gang provides Maria with an image of well-being and power. Her life story is pretty common for inner-city youths: poverty, dysfunctional family, lack of parental supervision and positive social values, peer group pressures and teachers who give up too easily on their students. School and a future of minimum wage jobs don't hold much allure for Maria and her friends so she moves into an apartment with the girls in the gang who become her surrogate sisters. They enjoy the easy life of criminals suffused with drugs, alcohol and casual sex.
The gang protects them from random street violence, and she dedicates herself to fighting the “crew”. She soon comes to realize that women in the male dominated world of gangs are little more than "hos" to be passed from gang member to gang member and who are expected to accept being beaten for arguing with their "man" or just because he's "pissed-off " at something.
Some may find the language, the explicit sex, the drug use and the lack of humanity shown in this novel offensive but its characters...