This very recent book, published in 2010, is written by a Jesuit priest who has worked for many years in an area with the highest concentration of murderous gangs in the city of Los Angeles, sometimes called the gang capital of the world. As of the year this book was published, he had buried a young person killed in gang violence 167 times. To encourage gang members to leave their lives of violence and death and to learn the mutual respect that comes from working together, Fr Boyle created an organization to provide job training, jobs and other incentives for wholesome living and respect for themselves and others. He occasionally took some of them along on his frequent speaking tours. “G”, as they called him, lived with, suffered with, and counseled these young people and got to know their incredibly sad stories of broken homes, irresponsible parents, multiple conflicts with the law and some even having had more than one jail sentence. He saw that the tattoos that covered their bodies and even their faces were symbols of the tattoos on their hearts from all they had suffered. Most of them were young men, teen-agers to their later twenties, but girls were also involved.
“G” opened his heart and offered unconditional love to his “homies,” spoke their language, and was loved and respected by them. He suffered keenly, even cried with them, when one would wander into another gang’s turf and be shot , or when rival gangs would battle it out. He consoled their mothers as they sobbed uncontrollably at the sad news that yet another child had been killed.
The book is filled with fascinating stories, told in “gang language”, with a sprinkling of both humor and pathos, with successes and failures. Fr. Boyle often quotes from Scripture and also from a great variety of authors, showing himself to be an extremely well-read and highly educated man, engaged not in some university but in the coarse amphitheater of the gang world. You will find it hard to stop reading once you begin.