Monday, June 21, 2010

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Father Gregory Boyle (Free Press)

I found out about this book when my professor invited two former gang members who now work at an organization called Homeboy Industries to come and speak to our class.  For those who have never heard of this organization, Homeboy Industries is an organization started by Father Gregory Boyle which is a type of "rehab" for gang members to try and get out of the gang lifestyle.  They help find former gang members find work, education, counseling and all around try and help gang members change their lives.  In their speech, they mentioned that Father Gregory had written a book about Homeboy Industries and all the proceeds went back to help support their work there.

I was intrigued and went out and bought the book.  I was expecting a history of Homeboy Industries chalk full of details about their work with maybe a few personal stories sprinkled throughout.  Father Gregory disillusions his readers of this idea immediately in the introduction.  The book does not follow any time or story line but is organized by topics such as "kinship" and "slow work" which describe the stories contained in each chapter.  But what really binds each of the stories is the universal human feelings of the homeboys he describes.  Father Gregory seeks to and succeeds in sharing stories about his experiences in a way that helps his audience understand the world these homeboys and homegirls come from and help them to feel sympathy and compassion towards them by showing them not as failures but as human beings.  He shows the all the good and all the mistakes of the people he describes. He provides enough background to give his readers a glimpse into a world many have never even imagined but is all that many gang members know.   The book does contain a Catholic religious note, but that is only to be expected in a book written by a priest.  It is infused in a way that does not preach but highlights the power and impact of love and personal connections in making a difference in people's lives.  I would recommend this book to any person of any background.  It is an eye-opener in many ways you would never expect.  And remember if you buy a copy you are helping to keep the work of Homeboy Industries to end gangs continue.

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