Some books are just transformational and make us look at old ideas in a new way. One of those books is Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle. In his book, which is on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library, Father Boyle tells his story of becoming a parish priest in East Los Angeles and interacting with gang members, an experience that not only gave his career a new focus, but caused him to reach deeply into his spiritual mission.
The outstanding book is both shocking and funny. Boyle’s stories of gang members, often raised in poverty-stricken homes with neglectful parents, are heartbreaking, as are the senseless violence and deaths resulting from gang activities. The stories are also often laugh-out-loud as the author tries to humanize people that many see as monsters. And, this is the theme of the book—the author’s view that gang members are deserving of compassion. Father Boyle never excuses the horrible deeds they commit and he continually tries to find them jobs that he hopes will lead them away from the gang life. The book also talks about Home Boy Industries, the company Father Boyle created as a viable business and job center.
Another book is about Gregory Boyle, rather than written by him. G Dog and the Homeboys by Celeste Fremon captures the gang intervention work of Father Boyle. Both books are inspirational and thought-provoking and each invites the reader to have a greater understanding of a very complex issue.
Some of you may remember when Father Boyle came to Monrovia in 2011 as part of our Eureka speakers grant. He spoke to a packed room of over 200 people who left motivated and inspired.