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Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  17,978 ratings  ·  2,734 reviews
Father Gregory Boyle’s sparkling parables about kinship and the sacredness of life are drawn from twenty years working with gangs in LA.

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 l
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Free Press (first published March 9th 2009)
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David Yes, there is a good bit of profanity but not particularly offensive. There is no way to sanitize this story if faithfully re-told.

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Average rating 4.47  · 
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 ·  17,978 ratings  ·  2,734 reviews

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Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2012
This book makes me want to love better. PERIOD. I have never had such a clear picture of how God loves even me... especially me. Everyone should read this book and buy 10 copies to give away. All proceeds go to Homeboy Industries.
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every Christian
It is interesting to me that if you read about people who work with the most wounded of human beings, they tend to have a very expansive view of God and a very inclusive Christian theology.

Fr. Greg Boyle works with Latino gangs in the public housing projects of LA. (I could have said "gang-infested" projects but Fr. Boyle makes a point in the book about language which brings shame to "life and love challenged" kids- I mean what do you think of when you say something is "infested"?) Instead he
It could be the thing I like best about Boyle’s stories are the changes made to one word of common phrases so that the meanings come up again, fresh and clear and relatable, like “wash your iniquities,” or “I hear your cancer’s in intermission.”

The other thing I enjoy Father Boyle’s work for is to hear how he takes the thoughts and work of others to meditate on. In this book he quotes the poet Mary Oliver many times, Rumi, Mother Teresa, Pema Chödrön, among others. There is always something int
Jun 10, 2010 added it

I should mention, first, for the benefit of anyone who doesn't live in Los Angeles or follow closely the arena of gang prevention, that Father Greg Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the most well-known gang prevention program in the gang capital of the US, Los Angeles. The organization's slogan is "Nothing stops a bullet like a job," and Father Boyle (or "G" as he is known) has made it his vocation to hire convicted felons straight out of jail and employ them in various Homeboy enterpr
Heather Jacks
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have always been a little left of center; deeply spiritual, not terribly religious; a modern day hunter and gatherer of theological principles and wisdom. I imagine something akin to a recycling center inside my head. Everything separated and compartmentalized, waiting to be processed and then smooshed into something new; something that I can use...that `fits' me. In this new creation bits and pieces of many great spiritual traditions are found and the unused portions are released, like mist i ...more
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I think I cried more listening to this book than any book - and that's saying a lot. I think I laughed more reading this book than most books I have read. Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries (whose motto is "Nothing stops a bullet like a job") in Los Angeles, has dedicated most of his life to working with gang members in the projects in L.A. He is my new hero. His life is dedicated to compassion and inclusion and joy, and his God touches my heart like no other ...more
Nov 18, 2010 rated it liked it
This book tells the story on Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in LA, and those of the "homies" that he serves. The organization helps gang members in LA find work, get their tattoos removed, and have a fresh start. I was inspired by how beautifully Fr. Boyle lives out his Christian faith. I think a lot of people could learn from his example of truly serving the poor and expressing love rather than judgment. However, as someone who is not a Christian some of his messages didn't ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fr. Boyle has spent 3 decades ministering to youth involved in gangs in Los Angeles. With compassion, reverence and wisdom, Fr. Boyle weaves the stories of the young people who have touched his life with spiritual reflections on the mercy, acceptance and unconditional love of God. 4.5 stars
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
the new American dream: what one person can do to make a difference for a lot of people. Making the world a better place. Choosing love over hate. Fr. Boyle is a hero.
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, l-a
Well, that was quite the roller coaster. Giggling on one page, weeping on the next. I'm not religious, and certainly not Catholic, but Father Greg's philosophy about the value of compassion and kinship was more than inspiring.
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read Tattoos on the Heart because the title caught my eye. Regina King, the star of Southland, was interviewed in O Magazine in the March issue, and was asked what was the best book she had read recently. She named this one.So I looked it up on Amazon and loaded it on my kindle. I was on vacation at the time and I read it in less than 2 days. I once read somewhere that compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use. Fr. G is what we are all called to be, humble, caring, loving, and able to ...more
Dec 16, 2010 added it
I met Fr. Greg Boyle several years ago, and later began working as the psychotherapist in residence assisting people from immigrant communities to gang communities. Fr. G's life was previously written by another author, Celeste Fremon, who wrote about Fr. G but after many years, and after telling the many stories about his Homeboys and Homegirls at conferences and at universities, today, December 15, 2010, he spoke on the Dr. Phil show. Fr. Greg is a humble, holy, courageous and wonderfully comp ...more
Tim Eby-mckenzie
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly the most powerful book I have read to date. I spent late night reflection time reading this book over a period of months, just soaking it in. I found myself unable to resist tears quite often, so moved by the compassion and wisdom reflected in the stories "G-dog" relates. The grace communicated so expansively through Father Greg's exposition of the "Narrow Gate" completely changed my perspective on Matthew's gospel. Before, I just hoped I might be able to squeeze in by the skin of ...more
Danielle Palmer
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book I would have chosen to read. My mom and I have a book club, and she chose this one, and I was dreading reading it. What a surprise I encountered, then, to find a book that is not preachy - but instead humorous, eye opening, and thought provoking. I laughed out loud more times reading this book on God and gangsters than I did reading any book that was classified as a comedy. This book made me grateful for the location and circumstances I have been born into, and hopefully less ...more
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
The website caption for Fr. Greg Boyle's organization reads: "Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education." While apparently accurate, having read about his experiences first hand it seems like a bit of an understatement.

Tattoos on the Heart contains the insights received by Fr. Boyle through his work in the gang capital of LA. Powerful almost seems an understatement as yo
Ok, so this was a book I was reluctant to start, but we were reading it for book group. So two days before I opened it up. I knew the general story about Gregory Boyle's work with the inner city gangs of Los Angeles, and how he started Homeboy Industries . . . but wow. I can't even explain how much this book affected me. Not because of the horrible lives of the gang members, and even when they tried to get out, oftentimes they ended up dead anyway. But because of the many lessons and examples of ...more
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
From My Blog...[return][return]Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle is a deeply moving, heartwarming series of essays from some of the most memorable times of Father Boyle’s career. Father Boyle has been a Jesuit Priest for 25 years working with many sections of the population that others deem frightening at best, including his work at his beloved Dolores Mission and the creation of Homeboy Industries (which is brilliant and what he refers to as a “tiny drop in a pretty big bucket” yet one we a ...more
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I heard Father Boyle interviewed on NPR a few months ago and was inspired by his work. He is a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries in LA in 1988. Homeboy Industries helps former gang members redirect their lives and become contributing members of their families and community by offering training, job skills and much more.

Tattoos on the Heart is a collection of anecdotes of Father Boyle's work which are compassionate, inspirational, thought-provoking, funny, tragic and unforgettable. Hi
Hufflepuff Book Reviewer
The author did a lot of astounding work, but I don't agree with his message that humankind is essentially good.

Due for a re-read at some point since I was on the younger side and some assigned books went over my head until I hit a certain year.
Was going through books and saw this and forgot to add it.
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It is difficult to put into words how deeply moved I was by the message of this book. Gregory Boyle is a Catholic priest who ministers to the youth in Los Angeles probation camps and juvenile detention centers. In an effort to combat gang related violence, he founded Homeboy Industries - an organization that provides jobs and meaningful work for youth affected by gangs. What he has done -- and what the countless number of youth have done in response -- is as inspiring as any thing I know.

His st
Robin Boggs
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best if not the best read I've had all year. A collection of stories of a truly compassionate man Father Greg Boyle who founded Homeboy Industries in LA and has dedicated his life to reforming gang members by first showing them love and compassion and showing them that they are valued and that God loves them and created them the way they are on purpose. Then providing them with jobs and counseling and even tattoo removal. The power of God's love has no bounds! As Mark J Torres , belov ...more
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully moving (and occasionally hilarious) account of 25 years of work with gang members in Los Angeles. The author is a Jesuit priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries, a program probably most famous for their motto Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job. But this isn't a "how to fix gang members" book. It's much more about living with and finding kinship with people that most of society prefers to either demonize or write off as unsalvageable or both. I highly recommend it. One of the be ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Listened on audio– I think it would've been five stars either way, but hearing Greg read his own words was intensely powerful. The kind of book everyone needs to read, but it especially resonated with me because of my work and my client population. I can't stop recommending this to everyone, and I certainly won't be able to stop thinking about it for a while to come!
May 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Great message. Many profound thoughts. Hard to read. Jumpy. The writing was not great.
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this. It was very inspirational and I would definitely read this again. This falls into the autobiography genre, but it was so much more than just that. The author felt called to make difference in gang ridden communities in Los Angeles. He promoted positive and constructive changes and he worked his faith into this. I also liked that the author sounded like a normal person but one who had a powerful story to tell. Very warm and very fuzzy. So 5 stars.
Jun 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing, inspirational, funny, sad, well-written book. Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries to assist the most violent gang-ridden section of Los Angeles. The style of the book is very casual, as if you are sitting at a party with an expert story teller, who never runs out of real life anecdotes. He is a preacher, but never seems to be preaching. In fact, it is the best spiritual book I have read in years and made me wish I was still a believer.

The author i
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
I had heard about Homeboy Industries & Gregory Boyle on an interview on National Public Radio, or maybe on an episode of 'This American Life'. Nevertheless, I was interested in this book from the start. Unfortunately, the writing is very scattered and it feels like Mr. Boyle is trying far too hard to make all his stories fit together thematically, and it just didn't work. I felt like I was reading a high school term paper, with all the random quotes stuck in to try to back up whatever sort of po ...more
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
"G," Father Boyle, is a perfect contrast to Greg Mortenstern. Instead of bragging and inflating the success stories of his amazing organization, "Homeboy Industries," he tells personal stories and shares spiritual insights into what it has meant to him to serve and, eventually work alongside, an impoverished and gang-dominated public housing community in Boyle Heights, L.A.

Boyle is a strong writer and I really couldn't put this book down. I will probably buy a copy so I can (shamelessly) dog ear
Karen Gilmore
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: insightful
Obviously the most powerful parts of this book are the stories it tells and the lessons those stories teach us, but what makes this book uniquely impactful is the masterful, personal, compassionate storytelling that Fr. Greg has crafted. Prudently placed quotes enhance the readers’ reflection in a way that broadens the scope from Homeboy’s ministry in LA to questions that get at the nature of our humanity and the Creator who delights in us.

I’ll be reading this again. And again. And again.
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As Executive Director of Homeboy Industries and an acknowledged expert on gangs and intervention approaches, Fr. Boyle is an internationally renowned speaker. He has given commencement addresses at numerous universities, as well as spoken at conferences for teachers, social workers, criminal justice workers and others about the importance of adult attention, guidance and unconditional love in prev ...more

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