Between Good and Ghetto: African American Girls and Inner-City Violence


Praise for Between Good and Ghetto:

“This book adds invaluable information and analysis to the growing debate on the violence perpetrated by girls, and the ethnographic method is exactly what is needed to further the question of whether today’s girls–particularly those most marginalized due to class, race and neighborhood–are more violent.”—Joanne Belknap, author of The Invisible Woman: Gender, Crime, & Justice

“Nikki Jones’ sharp, detailed investigation of the way fighting, on the street and in school, shapes the lives of young African-American women combines shrewd analytical insight and clear evocative language to give readers an understanding of what it costs a ‘good girl’ to stay good, and what happens to those who ‘go for bad.'”—Howard S. Becker, author of Outsiders and Writing for Social Scientists

“A very compelling account of daily life as experienced by poor, urban, African American adolescent girls. Recommended.”—Choice

Between Good and Ghetto is an expertly written and fascinating ethnography…”–Zine Magubane, Contemporary Sociology 2010


With an outward gaze focused on a better future, Between Good and Ghetto reflects the social world of inner city African American girls and how they manage threats of personal violence.

Drawing on personal encounters, traditions of urban ethnography, Black feminist thought, gender studies, and feminist criminology, Nikki Jones gives readers a richly descriptive and compassionate account of how African American girls negotiate schools and neighborhoods governed by the “code of the street”—the form of street justice that governs violence in distressed urban areas. She reveals the multiple strategies they use to navigate interpersonal and gender-specific violence and how they reconcile the gendered dilemmas of their adolescence. Illuminating struggles for survival within this group, Between Good and Ghetto encourages others to move African American girls toward the center of discussions of “the crisis” in poor, urban neighborhoods.

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Reviews of Between Good and Ghetto:

Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies (pp. 391-393 vol. 34, Issue 2, 2011)

“The topic commanding most attention from Sociologists of African Americans today is social stratification and its ramifications (followed closely by analysis of rearticulated racisms). But regardless of whether the focus is on the underclass, crime and prisons, on the middle class, or on racisms, scant attention is typically paid to gender. Yet gender remains one of the primary stratifying features of black life experiences. The most notable exceptions to this pattern are Patricia Hill Collins, Joy James, and Mary Patillo. Nikki Jones joins them in bringing gender and the experiences of black women to the foreground, and does so in ways that are insightful and compelling.”

–Professor Stephen Small, African American Studies, UC-Berkeley

Between Good and Ghetto reviewed in the September 2010 issue of Contemporary Sociology by Zine Magubane, associate professor of sociology at Boston College:

Between Good and Ghetto is an expertly written and fascinating ethnography of the gendered and racial dimensions of violence in the inner city.”

Click here to read the entire review: Contemporary Sociology Review

Between Good and Ghetto listed in Significant University Press Titles for Undergraduates, 2009-2010 (Choice Online Reviews, May 2010)

Between Good and Ghetto named one of the Top Ten Best Black Books of 2009 by Kam Williams.

Between Good and Ghetto included in Ms. Magazine’s Bookmarks: Great Reads for Fall 2009:

“Weaving black feminist theory with urban ethnography, Jones intimately describes neighborhoods where women and girls literally fight for their lives. Her study of violence and survival focuses attention on the destitution of inner-city childhood.”