How do you fight despair and learn to meet the world with a loving heart? How do you overcome shame? Stay faithful in spite of failure? No matter where people live or what their circumstances may be, everyone needs boundless, restorative love. Gorgeous and uplifting, Tattoos on the Heart amply demonstrates the impact unconditional love can have on your life.
As a pastor working in a neighborhood with the highest concentration of murderous gang activity in Los Angeles, Gregory Boyle created an organization to provide jobs, job training, and encouragement so that young people could work together and learn the mutual respect that comes from collaboration. Tattoos on the Heart is a breathtaking series of parables distilled from his twenty years in the barrio. Arranged by theme and filled with sparkling humor and glowing generosity, these essays offer a stirring look at how full our lives could be if we could find the joy in loving others and in being loved unconditionally. From giant, tattooed Cesar, shopping at JCPenney fresh out of prison, we learn how to feel worthy of God’s love. From ten-year-old Lula we learn the importance of being known and acknowledged. From Pedro we understand the kind of patience necessary to rescue someone from the darkness. In each chapter we benefit from Boyle’s wonderful, hard-earned wisdom. Inspired by faith but applicable to anyone trying to be good, these personal, unflinching stories are full of surprising revelations and observations of the community in which Boyle works and of the many lives he has helped save.
Erudite, down-to-earth, and utterly heartening, these essays about universal kinship and redemption are moving examples of the power of unconditional love in difficult times and the importance of fighting despair. With Gregory Boyle’s guidance, we can recognize our own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women in these parables and learn to find joy in all of the people around us. Tattoos on the Heart reminds us that no life is less valuable than another.
Father Gregory Boyle was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1982. He received his Master of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology; and a Sacred Theology Masters degree from the Jesuit School of Theology. In 1988, Father Boyle began what would become Homeboy Industries, now located in downtown Los Angeles. Fr. Greg received the California Peace Prize, the “Humanitarian of the Year” Award from Bon Appétit; the Caring Institute’s 2007 Most Caring People Award; and received the 2008 Civic Medal of Honor from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1986, Father Gregory has been the pastor of Dolores Mission in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. The church sits between two large public housing projects, Pico Gardens and Aliso Village, known for decades as the gang capital of the world. There are 1,100 gangs encompassing 86,000 members in Los Angeles, and Boyle Heights has the highest concentration of murderous gang activity in the city. Since Father Greg—also known affectionately as G-dog, started Homeboy Industries nearly twenty years ago, it has served members of more than half of the gangs in Los Angeles. In Homeboy Industries’ various businesses—baking, silkscreening, landscaping—gang affiliations are left outside as young people work together, side by side, learning the mutual respect that comes from building something together.
About Homeboy Industries:
Homeboy Industries traces its roots to “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle while he was serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights. Begun as a jobs program in 1988, offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, the program soon grew beyond the parish.
With the addition of a small bakery in a run-down warehouse across the street from Dolores Mission, JFF had its own business, one where it could hire the most challenging, difficult to place young people in a safe environment. The hope was that they could learn both concrete and soft job skills, to make them stronger, better prepared candidates for permanent employment. A tortilla stand in Grand Central Market downtown solidified the evolution of JFF into Homeboy Industries.
In only a few years, Homeboy Industries has had an important impact on the Los Angeles gang problem, with young people from over half of the region’s 1,100 known gangs seeking a way out through Homeboy. Thousands of young people have walked through the doors of Homeboy Industries looking for a second chance, and finding community. Gang affiliations are left outside as these young people work together, side by side, learning the mutual respect that comes from shared tasks and challenges.
Homeboy became an independent nonprofit in August of 2001, and has since grown into a national model. This year, we will celebrate our 20th anniversary as an organization in our new headquarters located in downtown Los Angeles, just two blocks from Union Station. Homeboy serves as a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking to leave gang life, for whom the barriers and challenges are great, and for whom there is virtually no other avenue to enter the mainstream.
In addition to providing job training and placement assistance and other free programs, a distinctive feature of Homeboy Industries continues to be its small businesses, where the most difficult to place individuals are hired in transitional jobs, thus giving them a safe, supportive environment in which to learn both concrete and soft job skills, while simultaneously building their resume and work experience. Former rivals find themselves working side by side, finding true community and friendship in place of the limited community of gang life. Homeboy’s businesses now include the Homeboy Bakery, newly re-opened in our new Headquarters downtown, Homeboy Silkscreen, which prints logos on apparel and provides embroidery services; Homeboy Maintenance, which provides landscaping and maintenance services; Homeboy Merchandise, which sells t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and mouse pads with the Homeboy logo, now with a retail storefront in the new Headquarters, as well as online ordering; Homegirl Café, newly expanded in the new building with 86 seats, plus a dedicated Catering kitchen provides a training ground dedicated to female clients in all aspects of the restaurant and service industry. Homeboy Press has been publishing a literary magazine since 2008.
I felt like this book was a look into a world I am all too happy I don't live in and experience, but also one I don't wish anyone else to either. The lives of Los Angelos residents is hard enough, then mix in some gang life, and it's beyond comprehension to most.
I am in awe of the Pastor who wrote the book, though I don't know that I like a Pastor writing cuss words. Even if repeating conversation, or emphasizing emotion, it just seems wrong. After I got past that and read the content, not the religious sermon, but the idea of helping these former gang members find their way, truly inspired, warmed my heart, and prompted me to ask, "What can I do?".
A powerful and emotional read, though I don't think this book would be for everyone.
~I received a copy from Condor Book Tours. I was not compensated for my opinion.~