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Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  174 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
As someone who clocked more time in mosh pits and at pro-choice rallies than kneeling in a pew, Kaya Oakes was not necessarily the kind of Catholic girl the Vatican was after. But even while she immersed herself in the punk rock scene and proudly called herself an atheist, something kept pulling her back to the religion of her Irish roots.

After running away from the Church
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 26th 2012 by Counterpoint (first published June 8th 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 21, 2013 Kathleen rated it liked it
First off, there are (at least) two errors in this book with regard to Catholic doctrine/rules.

1) Just because you're marrying a Catholic, you don't have to convert. You didn't even have to do so 65 years ago when my in-laws got married, so I don't know where Oakes got this.

2) Deacons can baptize babies. Heck, mothers can baptize babies.

There are probably more errors, but I didn't read this as a fact-checker -- and it's too bad this book's publisher apparently didn't employ one.

Kaya Oakes can wr
Jan 29, 2013 Gabe rated it really liked it
I am in the midst of my own return of sorts to the church. It's neither the church of my youth, nor the Catholic church to which Kaya is returning, but having the story of someone else's process of re-entering the world of communal faith made me feel as though I had a compatriot on my own journey. As I work out my own calling and my place in both the congregation and the greater church, being able to share in Kaya's story gave me both comfort and inspiration.
Jul 01, 2012 Stefanie rated it it was amazing
A heartbreaking work of heartfelt, hilarious, feminist, inclusionary genius. Full disclosure: Kaya is my friend, and I even make a very brief appearance (under a different name) in the book. But here's some even fuller disclosure: I'm a black-hearted little agnostic punk, totally comfortable with my rejection of my own childhood faith (conservative Judaism), yet still I was moved and inspired by Radical Reinvention. Its primary message isn't actually about Catholicism, Christianity, or, really, ...more
May 28, 2013 Ellery rated it it was amazing
If you are searching for spirituality, but want one that can encompass St. Francis, women's rights, volunteering at soup kitchens and continuing to use f-bombs when life demands it, AND secretly want to be Catholic again after leaving because you thought staying was uncool (and the Popes have made you crazy since the early '80's....) Kaya Oakes gives you permission to return, in a very well-written, informative book that isn't devoid of some real fucking funny shit.
Dec 03, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This personal narrative of the author's return to the Catholic Church and her spiritual journey was encouraging to me. It was nice to read from the point of view of someone who wants to be Catholic but who is also a feminist who is for female priests, for marriage equality, and for access to birth control. I want to be this woman's friend.
Apr 16, 2013 Kevin rated it really liked it
Shelves: friends, memoir
This midwestern Jew boy thought this memoir about rediscovering faith yet fundamentally disagree with the institutions that claim to guard and foster it by a California Catholic girl was really damn good.
Jul 16, 2012 Trish rated it it was amazing
I know Kaya slightly from work, and my friend also at work (Stefanie Kalem) recommended this book so highly that I had to read it. She's got taste, y'all. See what she reads and recommends and read them.

Interesting and intelligent people who write about mystical things like the soul and religion make my life a lot better because I get to share the exploration of those mysteries that live within us - the contradictions of logic and spirit, the wrestling with God (or is it really ourselves), etc.
Feb 11, 2013 Joey rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
I'd recommend this to individuals who feel more progressive than the faith tradition they adhere to wants them to be. It's definitely an alienating feeling. It would make a nice companion to Joanna Brooks' "Book of Mormon Girl" (which despite, or maybe due to my also being a progressive-minded Catholic, I liked a bit more). I enjoyed an early anecdote which found Oakes as a child testing whether saying "I swear to the Holy Spirit" would shoot her straight to hell. I liked some of the theological ...more
Oct 17, 2012 Goose rated it really liked it
Perhaps it's unfair to review a book before I've totally finished it (so close!), but as I look forward to recommending this to some of the women in my life, I want to ensure that they, and anyone else picking up the book, do not get discouraged if it doesn't begin the way they want. The story is about an "unlikely" return to the Catholic Church by a woman who has spent significant time away. Moreover, she doesn't look like the stereotypical Catholic: she has tattoos, short hair (so you can almo ...more
Jan 17, 2013 Carmen rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
This memoir about a Bay-Area writer's return to her religion is interesting, and strangely enough, brave, but for seemingly wrong reasons. Throughout the book, Oakes is constantly defending her journey of faith to her so-described progressive, punk, alterna-brethren, who seem to come off as less tolerant of diversity than the supposedly close-minded church-going folk she's supposed to be criticizing. It's almost as if reading the diary of a guilty soul who constantly needs to explain herself, or ...more
Mar 16, 2013 Dorothea rated it really liked it
Kaya Oakes resides in my pantheon of literary alterna-goddesses. She is an award-winning poet (Telegraph), author of Slanted and Enchanted The Evolution of Indie Culture and teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley. She was the co-founder of Kitchen Sink magazine ---a wickedly hip publication that ran from 2002 – 2007 which featured saucy essays, interviews, reviews and noodlings on media, art and culture.

In her latest book, Radical Reinvention An Unlikely Return to the Catholi
Jan 16, 2013 Abbey rated it really liked it
This book was so thoughtful, tentative, cautious, skeptical, and yet somehow optimistic and hopeful. After nearly 15 years outside of religion (and in the punk scene), Oakes decided to return to back to the church where she was baptized. I really appreciated the descriptions of her RCIA journey, spiritual direction with the Jesuits, and her trip to Rome. Homegirl rejects indoctrination and really seeks to find her own personal connection with the 'divine' - described as relational energy.

This i
Dec 14, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
My original review as I finished the book was this:

"As another believer who feels called to place herself 'in exile from the mainstream of the church', I find Oakes' telling of her story deeply nourishing, comforting, and encouraging. It's this kind of storytelling that will sustain the newest and most transformative growth in the body of Christ."

A few months later, I still wish I could articulate more of what I like about this book. But I don't think I can get very far. It speaks to me on an in
Apr 24, 2013 Beth added it
I really liked this irreverent, heartfelt memoir of someone coming to terms with what they believed and what they did not. I would love to have a chance to hang out with Kaya and talk theology with her some time. I too am a teacher with what seems to me to be a similar teaching style and have asked many of the same questions of the church, although I think I may have arrived at some different answers, I truly respect the path she has chosen and her ability to share that path so clearly with othe ...more
Apr 16, 2012 Christine rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to share in reading an advance copy. This work of non-fiction is a loving mix of research, insight and personal evolution. I enjoyed the conversational style mixed with observations and biblical references supporting elements the current leadership of the Roman Catholic church might disagree with. If you've ever wandered away from religion, this will help you realize we can always come home while providing a good laugh and just enough "touching moments".
Marlana Portolano
Dec 29, 2014 Marlana Portolano rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Like Kaya Oakes, I have taught college English for years, and like her, I attended an RCIA program, went through spiritual direction in a religious order, and struggled with my love of a church that most of my academic peers considered medieval and oppressive. So, I was probably the perfect reader for this book. I thoroughly enjoyed her brave and unguarded narrative about returning to the religion of her childhood in heart and spirit, even if her committed liberal and feminist mind maintained a ...more
Oct 07, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing
An honest, achingly real voice that made me laugh out loud. This book was more than entertaining and interesting as the author's personal journey back to the Catholic church. It was about cutting through centuries of BS to get back to the heart of what the church is really about. Loved this book!
Sep 01, 2012 Autaum rated it it was ok
This was a Goodreads giveaway that I found pretty hard to get through. It was well written and I appreciate the story, but I guess it just wasn't the type of book that appealed to me! Unfortunately I didn't find it overly engaging, however I'm sure others will enjoy it.
Jan 10, 2013 ribbonknight rated it really liked it
I hope to write about this extensively in my blog, but for now I'll say that it meant a lot to me to read a whole book about someone struggling with/having a lot of the same issues with their Catholic faith as me. The book made me feel less alone.
Feb 07, 2015 Patricia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, inspiration
Not sure where I read about this book, but it looked like something I was interested in. However, my initial response in the first 50 pages or so was frustrated disappointment. I knew it was just me. I struggle with the snarky, cynicism of younger writers. Oakes herself says, "A lot of my writing is heavy on irony and sarcasm, laden with self-effacement, and frosted with a layer of bitterness." YEP! That's exactly what was turning me off, BUT . . . I hung in there, and I'm glad I did. Her tone d ...more
Dec 27, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing
Really fun read. Good laughs, great insights. Can't wait to share with friends.
Ben Bush
Is this the book that made Pope Benedict take early retirement? Answers inside!
Annora Nin
Jul 10, 2013 Annora Nin rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I've found myself becoming interested in Catholicism again after a Catholic friend had given me a prayer to say in regard to something I am currently dealing with. The prayer, the Canticle of Daniel, apparently can be found in the Roman Catholic and Greek Bibles, are part of the Apocryphal, but is not something you will find outside of these particular books, and when I started saying the prayer every morning something about the flow of the prayer resonated with me in some pla ...more
Lisa Krueger
Aug 25, 2012 Lisa Krueger rated it liked it
This was an interesting, irreverent, readable, book I could relate to. In happening upon this book I was extremely curious as to how exactly someone raised in the Catholic Faith and who fell away from the Church in her adult life, could possibly reconcile her dislikes/distaste for the hierarchy of the Church and its dogma about abortion, gays and women and the Priest abuse scandals enough to actually "come back to the faith" in any meaningful way.

As the journey of this book began, I was struck
Andrea Mullarkey
Dec 21, 2012 Andrea Mullarkey rated it liked it
Radical Reinvention is a memoir by a Bay Area practicing Catholic with some pretty non-traditional ideas about the church so, yeah, more than one person thought I should read it. Oakes’s writing is clear, her winding path through Catholicism and spiritual struggle are compelling and the balance of personal and philosophical was about right for my tastes. So the question is why didn’t I adore this book? The answer, I think, is that it’s like so many other topical memoirs that cut too close to my ...more
Feb 24, 2015 Robin rated it liked it
I didn't especially connect with Oakes's voice in this memoir, but I learned some really neat things through her encounters with underground movements in the Catholic Church. (For example, I had no idea some Bishops have been ordaining women-- So definitely a worthwhile read.
Chris Keil
Jun 06, 2016 Chris Keil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting. It was refreshing to read about a return Catholic who is still looking and working for chase, social justice, and equality in the church., that it's not all about agreeing with everything.
Apr 10, 2015 Rose rated it really liked it
Funny, touching and thought-provoking. I liked her choice of names for the people she encounters. The warmth of her relationship with her husband comes through. A charming book (in a rough sort of way).
Jacinta Sheridan
Nov 16, 2014 Jacinta Sheridan rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Absolutely it has religion in it & that's good. The journey of self acceptance whilst maintaining the rage against Church is transforming.
Melissa Calderon
Jan 19, 2014 Melissa Calderon rated it it was amazing
This book is real and coming from a heartfelt place full of humor and a genuine place you can relate to. Not all religious people are uptight and perfect :) thank goodness for that.
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Kaya Oakes is the author of four books, including The Nones Are Alright (Orbis Books, 2015), Radical Reinvention(Counterpoint Press, 2012), Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture (Henry Holt, 2009), and a poetry collection, Telegraph (Pavement Saw Press, 2007). She is a contributing writer to Religion Dispatches,Killing the Buddha, Commonweal, and America magazines and her essays ha ...more
More about Kaya Oakes...

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“Do we talk about feeling neglected and rejected by the Church? Yes. Do we bash a bishop or two, talk a little trash about the Vatican, moan about a priest who said something dumb about women or gays or both? Sure. But mostly we talk about what faith does for us, how it moves us through life with an awareness of other people's suffering, and drives us to do something about that suffering. It reminds me of a conversation I had with Father Mellow, way back on the first night I spoke to him. "The Church is both sinner and holy," he said. "So are all of us.” 4 likes
“What matters is that like a rather large proportion of straight Catholics, I think gay people are pretty much the same as everyone else. My belief about sexuality can be summed up in this way: no matter our sexual orientation, we are all acts of divine creation and beloved by God.” 4 likes
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