Last month I posted a feature on former gang girl Tracey Miller, who was the only female member to join the infamous Brixton based gang the Younger 28s, when she was 15 years old.
Tracey now 36 years old and the mother of two children, recently appeared on ITV’s This Morning to promote her memoir titled Sour (her former street name) and talked about her time running with one of London’s most notorious gangs. She also explained how she turned her life around.
After I posted my feature on Tracey there was a mixed reaction from readers. Some praised Tracey for turning her life around by becoming a mentor to the troubled youth, while others accused her of showing a lack of remorse and reveling in her former street notoriety. They also accused Tracey of trying to cash in from her book sales and questioned her “mentor” status.
Both parties raised some interesting points, but before I could personally form an opinion on Tracey I felt that it was only fair to read her story first.
The memoir opens with Tracey briefly touching on her mother’s childhood, a victim of child abuse while living in Kingston, Jamaica, before moving to Brixton, South London at the age of twelve. She was then later diagnosed with Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression).
Her mother’s Bipolar disorder had a negative impact on family life, resulting in Tracey spending time in and out of foster care. The severe bouts of depression and unpredictable behaviour would often lead to her mother being forcibly removed from the home and then hospitalized for long periods of time.
When her mother was considered well enough and returned home, Tracey would have the misfortune of having to deal with a number of suspect characters that her mother would bring in to their lives. Raising children alone while battling mental illness is not easy and due to her mother’s fragile state of mind, I felt that she was not the best judge of character when it came to her choice in partners. This would ultimately leave Tracey feeling understandably vulnerable in her own home.
Then you have Tracey’s father, a physically abusive man who was later convicted of breaking in to a young mother’s home and raping her in front of her 4-year-old child.
After learning more about Tracey’s dysfunctional home life I began to feel some sympathy for her. There are instances in this book where I can see why she ended up running around Brixton with a pack of wolves and became a menace to society during her teen years.
However, the tales of bullying, robberies, the random acts of violence in public spaces, the arrogance, the ignorance and Tracey’s naivety when it came to her new “family” (a merry band of murderers, thieves, drug dealers and rapists) left me feeling angry and frustrated at times.
Tracey and a few of her fellow gang members may have all come from dysfunctional, troubled backgrounds and were possibly looking for an escape. But I also think that they were just bored teenagers who got a rush from brawling and leaving a trail of mass destruction in their wake.
Sour is a compelling read – a depressing page turner. It also brings back memories of being a teenager growing up in 1990s South London.
Those were interesting times….
I used to hear stories about the Younger 28s, and growing up in Lewisham I was familiar with their rivals the Ghetto Boys who were from the New Cross area. It is a miracle that Tracey was able to exit that world in one piece.
My opinion of Tracey is that she does come across as being quite nonchalant when discussing her past. However, I do believe that she genuinely does want to make a difference in the lives of troubled teens and due to a lack of qualifications wants to carve out a respectable career.
I do also understand why some people may have a problem with Tracey and question her motives, especially those who crossed paths with her during the bad old days.
Sometimes it is hard to forgive and forget.
*Note: Minor oversights by the authors that I picked up on while reading Sour.
When Tracey starts her prison term at HM Prison Holloway she/co-author Lucy Bannerman writes:
‘The belongings I tipped out in to the tray were pitiful. Oyster Card, chewing gum, lip gloss. That was it.’
Tracey served her prison term in the mid-1990s at the age of 16. Oyster Cards launched in 2003.
The move to ‘posh’ East Sutton Park Prison.
If Kate Middleton ever went off the rails, I thought, this is probably where she would end up.
Tracey could not have thought the above during this time period, because none of us (including future husband Prince William) knew who Kate Middleton was back then.
Tracey was blasted with a sawn-off shot gun during the 1995 Brixton riots and was then discharged from hospital hours later. Tracy also managed to limp out of the hospital without having to give a statement to a police officer first.
This is odd for a number of reason.
Click Here to purchase Sour.