Donna Gaines has written for Rolling Stone, MS, the Village Voice, Spin, Newsday and Salon. Her work has been published in underground fanzines, numerous trade and scholarly collections, professional journals and textbooks. Subjects have included music, tattoos, youth, guns, pornography, TV talk shows, suburbia, spirituality, gender culture, technology and intergenerational love.
Gaines has a Ph.D. in Sociology, and a Masters degree in Social Work. An international expert on youth violence and culture, Dr. Gaines has been interviewed extensively in newspapers, for documentaries, on radio and television. She has provided consulting services to attorneys defending young people in death penalty trials, to community leaders, school administrators, clergy, to producers and reporters in the print and broadcast media in the United States, Canada and Europe. A dynamic and popular public speaker, lecturer and workshop facilitator, Gaines has taught sociology at Barnard College of Columbia University and the Graduate Faculty of New School University. Since 2013 Gaines has mentored students in social science, youth, and music studies at SUNY Empire State College. In 2017 the College awarded Dr. Gaines the Altes Prize for Exceptional Community Service. In 2019 she was named as one of the ”Women in the Arts” honorees by the Board of Directors of Artists in Partnership, Inc. “In recognition of your creative contributions to our community.” Donna Gaines' painting, "Discipleship" was part of a 2019 show curated by the Long Beach Arts Council showcasing local artists. An art school dropout, she began painting again in 2013 after taking a forty year break, proving that it's never too late to catch another wave
Her first book, Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids was published by Pantheon Books in 1991. Rolling Stone declared Teenage Wasteland "the best book on youth culture." In 1996, the Pacific Journal of Sociology described it as "a classic in sociology." In 2001 Newsday dubbed it a "cult classic." Acclaimed by scholars as "a new way to do sociology" Gaines' second book, A Misfit’s Manifesto: The Sociological Memoir of a Rock & Roll Heart was published by Rutgers University Press in 2007. Published in hardcover by Random House in 2003, the memoir remains an underground favorite among alienated young people and diehard music fans alike. Her third book, Why The Ramones Matter, published in 2018 by University of Texas Press is part eulogy, part encomium, part love letter, celebrating the musical, cultural, political, personal and socio-historical impact of the mighty Ramones.