This farmgirl loves a good book – whether that book makes you laugh, cry, refreshes your soul, dances with your imagination, or teaches you a history lesson. Books are just the bees knees. We’ve had our Farmtastic Faves section for a while, and we think it desperately needs a Farmtastic Reads section. So in an effort to share one of my absolute all time favorite things – STORIES – here goes.
First up in the Farmtastic Reads category …
Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship – Gregory Boyle
I must admit, up until about a year ago, the chances of me making it through any nonfiction book were slim to none. For years, my reading was limited to mystery fiction, and I wasn’t really open to exploring much else. It was my guilty pleasure. Last year, a wise soul turned me onto Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, then Love Wins by Rob Bell, and well my bookshelves – virtual and real – are so much broader, deeper, and richer for it.
With my reading horizons expanded, I’ve found that I am usually reading a book or five (thank you Kindle), and in that mix is always something that speaks to the broader sense of humanity, spirituality, and the divine. On the recommendation of a friend on Instagram, I added Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship to my list.
Filled with engaging, uplifting, and at times gut wrenching stories of men and women coming out of gang life and into the fullness of seeing their own value and divinity, Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit Priest affectionately known as Father G, reaches straight into the heart of our shared humanity. He deftly weaves his personal observations and experiences with lessons that we can all take to heart.
You know it’s a good book when you and your highlighter become besties as you try to soak up every last nugget of truth, hoping that just a tiny bit of the goodness you are experiencing will stick to your core.
Father G doesn’t mince words. He sheds the formality and the perfection facade common in many religious circles and writings, not afraid of using strong language and slang to make his point, and to simply remind us all of the realness and the emotion of life. Father G strips away the sterileness that modern Christianity can often be wrapped in, and shares the gritty truth about trauma, loss, and hope. In short, he takes us back to the original story of Jesus – connectedness and kindness, compassion and love.
My emotions ran the gamut while reading this book. At one point, so moved by a former gang member’s story of loss and redemption that I found myself crying. At other times laughing out loud at the sheer smart and witty dialogue of these former gang members who were coming to see the beauty of their true selves, often for the first time.
You’ll also get a feel (or more accurately all the feels) for Homeboy Industries, started by Father G in 1988 as an answer to the question, ““Can we improve the health and safety of our community through jobs and education rather than through suppression and incarceration?”1
Barking to the Choir is a neon reminder that we make it far too easy to write off the other in our world – the gang member, the mentally ill, the poor. We’ve come to believe everything is a simple choice, while forgetting the impact of heartbreak, trauma, and fear on the human spirt . That we are all fragile, and strength comes in our kinship, in our ability to see and be seen for who we really are. Father G puts these truths front and center and reminds us all that we are the choir.
This is Father G’s second book, and believe you me within an hour of finishing this one, I ordered his first one, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. Come on Amazon Prime speedy delivery, this farmgirl has some soulful reading to do!
Featured image Amazon.