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Publisher's Summary

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 20 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 practiced compassion.

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.

©2010 Gregory Boyle. Recorded by arrangement with Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (P)2011 HighBridge Company

Critic Reviews

“One of my favorite books in years. It is lovely and tough and tender beyond my ability to describe.” (Anne Lamott)
“Destined to become a classic of both urban reportage and contemporary spirituality.” (The Los Angeles Times)
“Read, and let your life be changed!” (Father Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.7 out of 5.0
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Compassion is God

Any additional comments?

While Boyle was teaching a class to a group of lifers, one of the prisoners, on the spot, gave his definition of compassion. He ended slowly on, "...Compassion is God." Interestingly, before reading "Tattoos on the Heart," I read Lama Surya Das' "Awakening the Buddha Within." No matter how much I read about Buddhist, it never ceases to amaze me that there are groups of people in the world that actually sit and meditate on love and compassion. I think why this gets me is that Buddhist are perceived as being atheistic in nature. Yet, large numbers of Christians I have met, who believe in God, think constantly on wars and rumors of wars, and of storing up food and buying guns to kill people. They may think about love and compassion, but it sure isn't high up on the list of things to think about. Yes, I see irony in that.<br/><br/>The thought hit me, though, that if the definition of compassion is that, "compassion is God," then my definition of a saint would be: a saint is someone that not only meditates on love and compassion, but takes it into the world and puts it into action. By that definition, Gregory Boyle is a true saint.<br/><br/>Seriously, what is not to like about Boyle? A Jesuit priest that quotes Richard Rohr and Thich Nhat Hanh. A person that cares more about the good things you have done than the bad things. A much needed friend in a world full of enemies.<br/><br/>In my opinion, "Tattoos on the Heart" isn't just a book, but rather a training manual for how to rebuild America. No matter your political leanings, left or right, everyone should put aside their differences and see that this book is the way.<br/><br/>As we do crazy things like send all of our good jobs overseas and then pay people to sit around here doing nothing, "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us how much a simple job can mean to someone. It can mean the world to them. Literally, the difference between life and death. We should fight for every job we can keep here in America, like America depends on it, because it does.<br/><br/>As our foreign policy sees people as less than human, worthy only of carpet bombing, "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us that the way to make humans out of troubled people is not through violence, but through compassion. Indeed, the only winning move is to treat humans like humans.<br/><br/>As a whole, we have tried doing the same things over and over again, and got the same results. "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us a different path. Lets take it and see if something different happens this time. What exactly do we have to lose?

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Perhaps the best book I've read in years.

Flawless. Except for the tears. Father Boyle immediately draws you in with his accounts of the tragic lives of the gang members he lives and works with in LA.

Utterly redemptive. Positively emotional. Raw. Purposeful.

Amazing read.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • VH
  • 01-10-13

One of the Best Books I Ever Read

What did you love best about Tattoos on the Heart?

I don't live or work among gangs, but I do teach at risk children who are mostly of the same ethnic heritage of Fr. Boyle's parish. Many of his insights were particularly helpful for me in dealing with the parents of my students. Many of my students' parents had been once in gangs or prison. There is as much tragedy as there is humor as there is love in this book.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Tattoos on the Heart?

Fr. Boyle is of that wonderful Irish storyteller's tradition. I loved his stories, some very sad, and some very, very funny.

Have you listened to any of Gregory Boyle’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, I am not aware of other works by Fr. Boyle. I live in Southern California where he is known throughout as quite a hero by anyone who regularly reads local news or hears it on the radio. I regret that I haven't gone to one of his talks. He travels all around So. CA giving talks.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, I wanted to listen to this all in one sitting. However, Boyle has also some profound thoughts in spirituality and theology interwoven with his tales of working among gangsters. Many times while driving and listening to this, I had to hit the stop button and think for miles about ideas he expressed, fresh ways of thinking about God and our role in the world.

Any additional comments?

Anyone working with troubled kids or adults should read or hear this book. Anyone studying the art of storytelling should also.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Truly inspiring stories, awesome narration

I first heard Gregory Boyle interviewed on On Being, and he was so compelling I had to check this book out. This is a great example of a book that's 10x better in audio--Boyle's narration has so much heart and really brings the people he writes about to life. It helps that Boyle is fluent in Spanish and nails most of the Angeleno accents. Such great stories of humanity and redemption that brought back years living in the Pico-Union area. HIGHLY recommended!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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UNEXPECTEDLY FANTASTIC FUNNY SMART AND EMOTIONAL

Any additional comments?

I listened to this book in one sitting. the narrator did a fine job. It moved every single emotion, I cried, I laughed, and thouroghly enjoyed the journey from strat to finish. It will be a book that you will speak about and remember for time to come. I recomend this book to all. the characters came alive and felt I knew them all personally by the end. I did not want this book to end. Congratulations on agreat story

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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This was remarkably inspiring...

Father Greg is a living inspiration. His parish is in the most violent part of L.A. His story is unique, which makes these homilies, tales and antidotes spiritually renewing.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Favorite audio book ever!

I laughed and cried through the whole thing...often both at once. Part of me feels found...my own disenfranchised self who longs for kinship on the path to returning to the truth of who I am...who we all are. I also found the voice of the church that I longed for as a kid. The voice is heart-broken-open-compassion and I gotta say, it has a wicked sense of humor and swears like a homey.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Compassionate Stories Changed Me

If you could sum up Tattoos on the Heart in three words, what would they be?

beautiful, heart-breaking, hopeful

Any additional comments?

Gregory Boyle's story-telling ability kept me enthralled as I listened to his experiences while working with gangs in Los Angeles. He describes the lives of these "homies" with heart-breaking compassion, and I felt a kinship with the characters in his book. This is truly one of the best books I have ever experienced, and I am recommending it to all my friends.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Real Life Parables for Today WWJD

Every Christian, alright every PERSON, needs to listen to Father Boyle's Tattoos on the Heart. Because he has absolutely NAILED IT DOWN. One day at a time, one person at a time, he is loving people, accepting people, walking through the valley with people. Only by the grace of God, were you or I NOT born to a mother in the ghetto, into a gang ridden neighborhood. And are we BETTER than those who are born there??? NO, NO, NO . . . In so many ways we are poorer and more pitiful. We cannot see the forest for the trees. The story of the young father who would go home and watch his young children eat supper, DELIGHTING in them, after having worked all day long, not touching any food for himself, until his wife and children had been satisfied, touched me so deeply. If then, there was any food left, he would eat, if not, he didn't, having FILLED HIMSELF up with delight. A former gang member, this young man, had found himself and found that he was worthy of being loved. We try to complicate the gospel of Jesus Christ, sometimes just to try to get out of having to DO SOMETHING, I think. When we do that, we are robbing others and robbing ourselves.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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This will leave tattoos on YOUR heart

I'm not even done with this book and I feel compelled to write about it. It's really great. My wife is listening to it, too, and she feels the same way..

First, this guy's voice is FANTASTIC. Because he wrote the book he tells it with his own personal inflections and emphasis, and he's a GREAT story teller. You feel like you're in the room with him.

And his stories are really moving and touching. I am so impressed that someone would dedicate years of their life to helping gang kids like this. I can only imagine how rewarding and uplifting it must be.

Want to be reminded of the goodness of the world? Want to have clear evidence there are incredible people who put others ahead of themselves? Want to see how one person can change so many others' lives? Want to just FEEL GOOD after listening to a book?

Listen to this one.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • ian
  • 09-03-11

Should be compulsory reading in schools

I'm blown away by the the incredible compassion of this man. His love and compassion offers more sense than all the over complicated, jargon ridden 'experts' - because they leave out compassion. Whether you believe in God or not, Gregory Boyle's way is the only way to evolve the human condition - so that all lives are valued equally, instead of being selective and judgemental about who's deserving and who's not.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Redsue
  • 09-23-17

Wow.

Couldn't have been performed by anyone else. Passion, humility and raw honesty.
A game changer.

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  • Adrian
  • 03-14-17

Truly wonderful

I believe that rather than speaking on God's behalf, God is speaking through Greg Boyle

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  • Mrs. L. Gerrard-Longworth
  • 03-02-15

Awesome, thoughtfully crafted, humbling.

Read it, listen to it... Let this book in.
I listened to it on my commute - what a great companion! Sad to finish it. 😊

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  • mark
  • 01-24-15

best audio book I have listened too

What did you like most about Tattoos on the Heart?

Enjoyed the stories faith and love in action

What did you like best about this story?

Moved me and challenged me

Have you listened to any of Gregory Boyle’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Heartfelt and enjoyable to listen too

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The compassion of God

Any additional comments?

Best audio book I have listened too

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  • Kevin K
  • 01-16-17

Powerful

I expected a feel-good story. Instead, I was plunged into the beauty of life itself.

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  • merisa
  • 08-08-16

So grateful for this book...

I absolutely love this book and listen to it again and again, eac time beholding something new and beautiful, each time being moved deeply and always grateful for the reminder that we all belong to each other....