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Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  164 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Robert Coles first met Dorothy Day over thirty-five years ago when, as a medical student, he worked in one of her Catholic Worker soup kitchens. He remained close to this inspiring and controversial woman until her death in 1980. His book, an intellectual and psychological portrait, confronts candidly the central puzzles of her life: the sophisticated Greenwich Village nov ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published January 22nd 1989 by Da Capo Press (first published 1987)
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Jan 01, 2009 Amy rated it it was amazing
This book, this woman changed my life. At the time I read it, I was myself an agnostic (and former fundamental protestant) and a single mama. I was so powerfully moved by her conversion experience and authentic life of voluntary poverty. I especially related to her opposition to institutions, and her struggles with Church hierarchy. She didn't want to be called a saint, she said that anyone could do what she did. I have since converted to Catholicism, focusing on the actions of Jesus ("Red Lette ...more
Larry Bassett
Jun 27, 2016 Larry Bassett rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
This is a book about a woman whom I have admired for a long time. It was written by a man who spent many years talking to Dorothy Day and reading her books. Her autobiography The Long Loneliness is referred to often as are a number of her other books. Dorothy Day died in 1980. She converted to Catholicism at the age of 30 after a long search and a rather tumultuous life. Although this book was written by a man the audible people did a good job in picking a woman to read the book and manage some ...more
Peter Mottola
Apr 25, 2016 Peter Mottola rated it really liked it
Shelves: overdrive
A vivid portrait of Dorothy Day. While I don't think the author fully appreciates Day's Catholic faith, this synthesis of his many long interviews with her left me with the impression of having sat down to tea with the woman herself. A short and simple read, I recommend "Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion" to anyone who wishes to encounter this humble and saintly woman.
Mar 05, 2008 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual, biography
Dorothy Day was a radical Catholic who devoted her life to the homeless and disenfranchised. As a previous reviewer stated, she was "the real deal". She co-founded The Catholic Worker movement and published its newsletter while opening soup kitchens throughout New York. Robert Cole knew her well and brings her humanity (controversy and all) to these pages.
Mark Rembert
Jun 10, 2007 Mark Rembert rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: activists, social servents
Dorothy Day is the real deal. One of the most inspiring and under appreciated humans of the 20th century. Founded the Catholic Workers Movement during the Depression (after converting to catholicism in her 20s)and went on to be one of the greatest social activists in American history. Seriously amazing stuff. On her way to sainthood.

The bio itself is phenomenal. Written by a psychiatrist, it very much comes from a psychoanalytical prospective with greater emphasis on analyzing Day then on her h
Jun 19, 2016 Ron rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: writers and readers of writers - women and outstanding American Women
“Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion” by Robert Coles is one of the Radcliffe College Biography Series depicting the lives of extraordinary women and Dorothy Day certainly belongs to this league of extraordinary women. They give us “a glimpse of ourselves and are a reflection of the human spirit. The biographies have included Hellen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy, Margaret Fuller, Gertrude Stein, Mary Cassatt and Simone Weil. Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1897. As she grew into a teenager s ...more
Don Weidinger
Aug 16, 2015 Don Weidinger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
where life is brief, lower east side kitchen, talk to one of us engaging, UI socialism from TN abortion drifter, NYC Guadalupe parish, Catholic Worker paper family vs faceless govt program, have Lord in life, curiosity and idealism of young, Long Loneliness autobiography, worst sin pride, God is love and forgiveness, loose moral standards of radicals in 20’s, grow-up and stop being so selfish, a woman does not feel whole w/o a man, an alienist a psychologist per NYC, plenty of charity too little ...more
May 15, 2016 Kate rated it it was ok
Ostensibly Cole is a psychiatrist - this is troubling, as he seems to have zero understanding of the Catholic religion to which Day dedicated her life & which was the greatest influence on her. He makes no apparent attempt to understand it, either, preferring the obtuse & critical view of an outsider. He rambles, name-drops, projects his issues onto Day, & chokes the book with notes & digression.
To anyone interested in Day - truly Dorothy Day & her *whole* life, *whole* self
Carl Cash
I think I will read some of her work. This was more a background and history of this controversial character.
Mar 29, 2015 Cathy rated it really liked it
I found this book to be both an easier read and a more focused introduction to Dorothy's life than her autobiography (The Long Loneliness). There are significant, long quotes from Dorothy and excellent contextual framing from Coles. Reading both of these books gives an excellent feel for Dorothy's life both from her perspective and that of a third party (who was obviously inspired by her).
Jul 07, 2011 Justher rated it really liked it
As a current student at a Lasallian college, I often heard Dorothy Day's name intertwined with service acts. I didn't know very much about her until picking up this book and, for some reason, didn't feel comfortable delving straight into Day's own writing without reading some sort of biography first. Coles does a great job of introducing Day to those unfamiliar with her (like myself), but those who already know her may find it repetitive. This biography truly shines when Coles inserts quotes fro ...more
Aug 22, 2015 Holly rated it really liked it
I had never heard of Dorothy Day before I read this book (gasp!). I think if each of us attempted to emulate her, even in small ways, we could vastly improve the world.
Peter Davis
Feb 11, 2014 Peter Davis rated it really liked it
A great biography of a tremendous woman. Not your standard biography: instead of a linear as count of her life, it rather is organized thematically around her ideas.
Brett Linsley
Feb 18, 2016 Brett Linsley rated it it was amazing
Incredible collection of discussions between the author and Dorothy Day. Had never heard of her before but am thoroughly taken with her after finishing this little gem.
Mar 09, 2010 Doug rated it liked it
Shelves: way-of-the-cross
Though grossly neglected in conservative evangelical circles, Dorothy Day lived the way of the cross with spit and attitude for much of the twentieth century. Her own writings have never been quite effective for me, but her life is her real story, and this biography by Coles does some of the best, if not the best, work in capturing her amazing life. Dorothy understood what Jesus asked and did it.
Sabra Kurth
Jul 04, 2014 Sabra Kurth rated it it was amazing
I knew very little about Dorothy Day, other than her work with the Catholic Worker Movement. Having read this biography, I am eager to read her writings and more books on her life and work and books that influenced her. Her story speaks to me on many levels and any superficial admiration I had for her has deepened. A true 20th century Doctor of the Church.
May 30, 2009 D rated it really liked it
Recommended to D by: TZ's bookshelf
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
radical but down-to-earth, humble but with a steely determination, short-fused but full of compassion.

dorothy day was an instruction manual, folks, on how to walk a moral minefield, finding divine direction DESPITE church and state.

a fascinating, amazing woman who lived good, didn't just think it. armchair philosopher? she'd spit in your eye.
Wouldn't it be remarkable if all Christians were as good at integrating the teachings of Jesus into their everyday lives as Dorothy Day was? If that were the case, there would be no Republicans left to vote down food stamps programs.
Sep 30, 2012 Queen rated it liked it
I only made it to page 111. Later in my life, I understood her struggle to slowly develop faith through action rather than the other way around.
Apr 24, 2012 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this introduction to an American saint. I look forward to reading more of her work!
Nov 01, 2015 Peggy rated it really liked it
Interesting book about a woman I greatly admire!
essential and good
Brenda Petro
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Jun 18, 2016
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Michael Counihan
Michael Counihan rated it really liked it
Jun 11, 2016
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Jun 05, 2016
Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Jun 01, 2016
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May 16, 2016
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Child psychiatrist, author, Harvard professor.

Robert Coles is a professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at the Harvard Medical School, a research psychiatrist for the Harvard University Health Services, and the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard College.
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