Trying to Make It: The Enterprises, Gangs, and People of the American Drug Trade

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Trying to Make It is R. V. Gundur's journey from the US-Mexico border to America's heartland, from America's prisons to its streets, in search of the true story of the drug trade and the people who participate in it.
The book begins in the Paso del Norte area, encompassing the sister cities of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, which has been in the public eye as calls for securing the border persist. From there, it moves on to Phoenix, which was infamously associated with the drug trade through a series of kidnappings. Finally, the book goes on to Chicago, which has been a lightning rod of criticism for its gangs and violence.

Gundur highlights the similarities and differences that exist in the American drug trade within the three sites and how they relate to current drug trade narratives in the US. At each stop, the reader is transported to the city's historical and contemporary contexts of the drug trade and introduced to the individuals who have lived them. Drug retailers, street and prison gang members, wholesalers, and the law enforcement personnel who try to stop them offer readers a comprehensive look at how various illicit enterprises work together to supply the drugs that American users demand.

Most importantly, through a combination of macro- and microlevel vantage points, and comparative analysis of three key sites in illicit drug operations, the stories in Trying to Make It remind us that the people involved in the drug trade, for the most part, do not deserve vilification. Far from being a seemingly uniform, widespread threat or an unlimited array of bogeymen and women, they are ordinary people, living ordinary lives, just trying to make it.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationIthaca, New York
PublisherCornell University Press
Number of pages327
ISBN (Electronic)9781501764493
ISBN (Print)9781501764462, 9781501764479
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • American drug trade
  • drugs
  • gangs
  • illicit enterprises


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