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Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Amazon categorizes Tattoos on the Heart under Christian Living, Self Help, Spiritual Growth, and Sociology: a complete change of pace from the books I normally read. Do not let the categories deter you (even though this would not have been a book I would have picked up on my own). I was recently accepted into a program at my school called Tucker Leaders in Community. The Tucker Foundation's goal is to combine service, spirituality and social justice by offering a wide variety of service opportunities in the Upper Valley Community in New Hampshire and Vermont and hosting multi-faith programs and working to support and further "the moral and spiritual work" of Dartmouth College. Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who founded of Homeboy Industries ("Los Angeles' most successful effort to engage young men and women outside of the gang life" x) wrote a memoir entitled Tattoos on the Heart, a series of stories about the "homies" who Boyle has worked with. It's not simply about a memoir by a priest who works with gangs; it is so much more. Father Greg, simply referred to as "G" by those he worked with, is a famous figure (just look at the LA Times' coverage of him): he makes approximately two hundred speaking appearances per year (he's coming to talk at Dartmouth in January) and has received numerous humanitarian awards (including the California Peace Prize). The memoir is anecdote-heavy, as one would expect, but his relationship to God and understandings of teachings are also touched upon. He has very personal relationships with those homies and homegirls he interacts with, writing "Kinship– not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not 'a man for others'; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that." Los Angeles County claims 1,100 gangs with nearly 86,000 members: they "come to Homeboy when they are ready to hang up their gloves." (source). And it is an inspiring, yet saddening, book. The optimistic tone is surprising; Father Gregory has buried over 160 young people from gang-related violence at the time of publishing (side note, all proceeds from the book go to supporting Homeboy Industries). He believes in the power of jobs, not jails. Father Gregory writes in the introduction that "this book does not concern itself with solving the gang problem...it hopes only to put a human face on the gang member, but to recognize our own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women in these parables." Definitely a book to read if you have the chance. Rating: ★★★★★