Item description for Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion (Radcliffe Biography Series) by Robert Coles...
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 novelist and reporter who converted to Catholicism; the single mother who raised her child in a most unorthodox "family"; her struggles with sexuality, loneliness, and pride; her devout religious conservatism coupled with radical politics. This intense portrait is based on many years of conversation and correspondence, as well as tape-recorded interviews.
Citations And Professional Reviews Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion (Radcliffe Biography Series) by Robert Coles has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Publishers Weekly - 02/03/1989
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Studio: Da Capo Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.9" Width: 6" Height: 0.7" Weight: 0.85 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 1989
Publisher Da Capo Press
ISBN 0201079747 ISBN13 9780201079746
Availability 0 units.
More About Robert Coles
Robert Coles, M.D. is a child psychiatrist and the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University. He is a founding member of the Center of Documentary Studies at Duke University. The author of numerous books, he wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning, multi-volume works The Inner Lives of Children and Children of Crisis. He is also the Editor of the documentary magazine Double Take.
Robert Coles currently resides in Concord, in the state of Massachusetts.
Reviews - What do customers think about Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion (Radcliffe Biography Series)?
An Autobiographical twist to a straight foward Biography Jan 25, 2008
Robert Coles tells Dorothy Day's tales in such a way that readers get a balance between autobiographical reflection and biographical bias. Coles' biography of his friend includes many long quotes from Day herself, adding a sense of truth. Through these quotes, Day reflects on various aspects of her long career in writing, her conversion to Catholicism, and her continued activism. Readers get an idea of what Day wanted other people to know about her life. Her words seem truthful and extremely reflective - it seems she has nothing to hide about her very interesting life journey. As far as the self-reflecting aspect of the biography, it is definitely a book to take a look at if you want a candid view of Dorothy Day.
However insightful Day's reflections were, Coles' interjections in her quotes and his descriptions of certain events were sometimes too biased. He essentially praised Day throughout the book (rightly so, if you were giving a speech honoring her), instead of giving readers a more clear-cut look at her life. I am not trying to say that the praise is not well deserved or well written, but for a biography I would have liked a bit more of factual information inserted among Day's quotes. I suppose this style of writing is to be expected, because he saw Day as
Dorothy day May 18, 2001
"Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion" was a good book because it showed Dorothy's imperfections and her good points. Some authors only tell about the good points of people's lives, but this book shows that Dorothy Day wasn't perfect. She made mistakes in her life. I learned a lot of interesting facts that I never knew about Dorothy Day. This book shows how Dorothy was devoted to helping the homeless. She established thirty three homeless houses across the whole country. She was brave when she left her husband to convert to Catholicism. Her husband didn't approve of God. Her daughter was baptized. My favorite part of the whole book is when the homeless man comes into the hospitality house and he has a gun with him. He threatens to shoot the gun. Instead of calling the cops, Dorothy goes over to the man and introduces herself. This shows how brave and courageous Dorothy is. The man then talks to her. All he wanted was for someone to appreciate him and someone to talk to him. He visited her often. Dorothy was there for him. This book gave me hope because it shows that an immoral person such as Dorothy Day turned into a woman who had great morals. She went from having an abortion to establishing hospitality houses. If a person knows someone who has no morals, they shouldn't give up on them because if they have enough faith in God, they can turn themselves around like Dorothy Day turned herself around. Having faith in God can help a person through anything. We all make mistakes in our lives and do things we shouldn't but we have to learn by these mistakes and try to better ourselves. Also, like Dorothy we have to do what makes us happy and not listen to other people. She lost her husband and gave up a lot of material things, but this is what made her happy and she helped a lot of people.
A concise treatment of a complex life Aug 8, 2000
Biographers frequently become lost in minutiae.
Dorothy Day poses a particular challenge to the discriminating writer, because of the sheer volume of material about her life, including an autobiography, an autobiographical novel, a huge mass of journalism, biographies, and the writings of a number of her contemporaries. Given such a prolific writer, the reader might expect with dread to encounter 900 pages of occupations of great-grandparents, musings in correspondence, and constant press quotes--the fodder of the "I've got a book deal and I'm gonna put out a tome" kind of bio writing that we see all too often.
Coles' book is a breath of fresh air. In a hundred and a half pages he gives us an overview of her life and ideas, framed by excerpts from his own interviews with Ms. Day in her later years. Coles' editorial voice is always present, but generally open-minded. This is not a literary biography, evaluating the merit of Ms. Day's writings, nor a social biography, intending to give us all the inner workings of the Catholic worker movement. Instead, this is a meditation on the inspirations and contradictions inherent in this very rich life, told as often as possible from Mr. Coles' impression of Ms. Day's own take on her life-as-lived.
I read this in an evening and a day, and found it inspiring, satisfying, and altogether well written. Sometimes I wished Mr. Coles had put a little less of his first person impressions into his reportage of interviews with Ms. Day,but other times I wanted more of Mr. Coles' touchstone analysis of what Ms. Day was saying.
A reasonable critique of this book is that one could read it and still fall well short of understanding Ms. Day's thoughts or the details of her life. The somewhat sunny tone may be perceived as uncritical. For me, though, this was a great bio--get in, get the job done, get out, leave an image as clear as a descriptive poem. This is a good read--I highly recommend.
A life of integrity Jul 9, 2000
Robert Coles' friendship with Dorothy Day began in 1952 and continued through almost three decades until her death in 1980. Coles kept notes on his many converstations with Day, and in this book shares with his readers his intimate knowledge of this extraordinary woman. He quotes extensively from these converstations in which Day spoke simply and openly about all sorts of issues, and Coles says that he writes "in the hope of giving readers the benefit of her distinct, compelling point of view." In keeping with this, the organization of his book is topical rather than chronological, although the first chapter does provide a brief overview of the events of Dorothy Day's life.
The remaining chapters center about the issues that were important to Dorothy Day: her conversion to Catholicism, her relationship to the Church, politics, her daily life in Catholic Worker houses, and more.
What is special about Coles' work is that the reader comes to experience Day, as she revealed herself to her friend. We encounter her in all her complexity and even contradictions, and above all, in her stunning fidelity to her ideals and beliefs.
Interesting biography Oct 5, 1998
Coles bases his biography on a series of interviews with Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker. He explores her youth which she didn't look back fondly upon and her devotion to major social causes that her conservative fans don't want to focus on. Ms. Day truly strikes you as a dedicated, sincere, intelligent and good person. While she may not have wanted to be a saint, she often comes through as possessing the modesty, self-criticism, concern for others and devotion to the Lord that one should expect in a saint. Coles' writing isn't great but is at least average for a biography, and given the subject, this was a book well worth reading.