Double praise in the L.A. Times today from friends of Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries for his new memoir, "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion." Op-Ed columnist Tim Rutten writes that he sat down to read the book with a friend's trepidation for what awaits. But he concludes "I got up glowing with the exhilaration that contact with first-rate literature confers. 'Tattoos on the Heart' is destined to become a classic of both urban reportage and contemporary spirituality." In Calendar, Celeste Fremon also gets personal:
Boyle was already not writing his book when I met him in the fall of 1990. I'd heard that a Jesuit priest operated some sort of gang ministry out of a small Catholic church located east of the Los Angeles River between the public housing projects of Pico Gardens and Aliso Village....
there was nothing particular to suggest that the smart, Hancock Park-raised boy with the triple master's degrees (masters of divinity, of sacred theology and of English) would find himself radicalized by a year among the poor of Bolivia and come home to run the nation's best-known gang intervention program, surrogate-fathering the kids whom most of the rest of the culture wanted to lock up and forget.
At last count, he's buried 168 young men and women whom he's surrogate-fathered. Burying kids you know causes a psychic rending. Over the years, I have watched the deaths take pieces out of Boyle. But here's the thing: his is a heart that regenerates, miraculously so.
Fremon is the author of "G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles," published in 1995. Boyle is back east this week for readings.