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Love Is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day [Paperback]

By Jim Forest (Author)
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Item Number 128929  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   166
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.22" Width: 6.15" Height: 0.5"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 1994
Publisher   Orbis Books
ISBN  0883449420  
EAN  9780883449424  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Love is the Measure offers a richly illustrated biography of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement and one of the most extraordinary and prophetic voices in the American Catholic Church. Jim Forest, who worked with Day in the 1960s, provides a compelling portrait of her heroic efforts to live out the radical message of the gospel for our times.

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More About Jim Forest

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jim Forest is an internationally renowned peacemaker and spiritual writer. His many books include "All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day, Living with Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton, Praying with Icons," and "Ladder of the Beatitudes."

Jim Forest currently resides in Alkmaar.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Great Biography, but not very intimate  Apr 18, 2008
The biographical account of the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and cofounder of the popular and influential newspaper The Catholic Worker, creates a complex yet simple image of Dorothy Day for Jim Forest's readers. His biography is relatively short in covering 83 years of life and is filled with brief chapters accounting small monuments in her inspiring and powerful life. The life of Dorothy Day spanned many decades and eras, from the First World War to the anti-communist era of the 1950's, only to be followed by the Civil Rights era.
Dorothy Day was born November 8th, 1987 in Brooklyn, New York to a family of journalists, and she continued that tradition. Day was a brilliant young woman excelling in Greek and Latin, and was an avid reader. Yet scholarship was not her calling, she craved to be with the people, the huddled masses. She worked on many radical papers and her passion contributed to her success, yet it was not until she met Peter Maurin and allowed her faith to be the strength and the reason behind her arguments for justice and peace, that Dorothy Day began to be successful. Before she was baptized into the Catholic Church in 1927, she had been married twice, had one abortion and one daughter, whom she named Tamar. Yet the birth of her Daughter caused her faith to grow, and she finally began to embrace her spirituality as the drive behind her radical passion.
While living and writing in New York, Peter Maurin sought Day out and began dictating his vision for a new, Catholic, pacifist and agrarian society to be enacted through the circulation of a newspaper, which they agreed to call The Catholic Worker. It rapidly grew in circulation, yet grew controversial for its enduring pacifist stance in the First World War, the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and during the Red Scare. Although Day faced opposition and persecution within her own Church, she continued to write in favor of non-violence, "we are still pacifists. Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers" (102).
By the Second World War, Day became incredibly concerned with the use of the Atom Bomb, the development of the H-Bomb, and the distinctly Catholic codenames and conduct surrounding the employment of these catastrophic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet Day preserved in her faith, writing, "we do not have faith in God if we depend upon the atom bomb" (135). These harsh truths were necessary in the world of the 1940s, and were abundant on the lips of Dorothy Day.
Day did not only write for the Worker, but helped to start hospitality houses all over urban areas in New York, as well as begin agrarian communes to care for those interested in living in a Christian commune. Day wrote of the benefits of these communities and the young people following her movement, "they learn not only to love, with compassion, but to overcome fear, that dangerous emotion that precipitates violence" (185).
By the time of the Red Scare, the government began to spread anti-Communist propaganda to fight the Soviet Union's growing influence. This caused rampant accusations that damaged the reputations of well seeking social justice workers. Many lost their jobs, their reputations, and some were even executed. Yet Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker used biblical rhetoric and appealed to the senses and spirits of many Americans to rethink blind accusations of Communism and the spirit of social justice and hospitality that seems to have died with it. During the Red Scare and novelty bomb evacuations, Day led protesters to stay above ground and ultimately to be arrested. This granted Day favorable opinion in some publications and ultimately was part of the reason New York City stopped these emergency evacuations. These fear mongering tactics were opposed by Day, who sought conversion, rather than defeat, as a means of victory.
In spite of all this adversity, Dorothy Day grew in fame and influence. Before her death on November 29th, 1980, she had opportunities to build relationships with Mother Theresa, Ceasar Chavez and several Popes. In the end, her vision and passion lived through. "Let me say that the sight of a line of men waiting for food, dirty, ragged, obviously sleeping out in empty buildings, is something I will never get used to...The heart hungers for a new social order wherein justice dwelleth," Day wrote (169).
Forest's biography of Dorothy Day does an exceptional job of covering 83 years in only 200 or so pages. It inserts many inspiring quotes throughout the book, but it lacks in inserting outside perspectives on Dorothy's life as well as full transcripts of her speeches and writings that would have helped a reader to get a feel for the tone of her writings and how her mind progressed. After reading the book, I still would like to get inside her mind a bit more and read her own writings. When reading about someone, I find I can come to understand more about them directly from their own writings than from a biographers. Perhaps I should have read one of her own autobiographical writings.

The 20th Century and its relationship with Dorothy Day  Sep 21, 2007
The controversy surrounding Dorothy Day's long life epitomizes a quote by Dom Helder Camara; "When you give food to the hungry, they call you a saint. But when you ask why the hungry have no food, they call you a Communist" (Forest, 204). She was both revered and criticized for being a friend of the poor and unemployed and pushing the envelope in their favor to such a point that J. Edgar Hoover recommended she "be considered for custodial detention in the event of national emergency" (Forest 178). Love is the Measure, a biography of her life by fellow Catholic Worker Jim Forest, displays this oscillating view of Dorothy Day.

The first few chapters highlight Dorothy's childhood, following her family's moves from Brooklyn to California to Chicago as her father moves from newspaper to newspaper. It was her father's strict parenting-style that led her to remain in their home's library day after day, befriending Jack London, Peter Kropotkin and Upton Sinclair. These men pushed her to take walks in the grim West Side of Chicago and begin to feel a connection with the poor and the workers. Her love of reading continued into university which she attended on a scholarship and supported through manual labor. She wasn't satisfied with assisting victims of social evils, but consumed with the presence of the evils in the first place. It was a theme that rang true throughout her entire life as a reporter and eventually as a co-founder and editor of The Catholic Worker.

Her life as a reporter began shortly after as she dropped out of school and moved back to New York. She began working for The Call and entered a period of "Red Friends, Revolutionary News" as Forest eloquently entitled the chapter. She interviewed Leon Trotsky and attended dances held by anarchists before moving to another magazine, The Masses, until it was suppressed. She bided her time by taking part in a suffragette movement and hunger strike in jail. It was to be one of many times she would be arrested for civil disobedience.

She also began to spend time with a coworker in the hospital she found a temporary job. Lionel Moise was her first real love, but his disbelief in marriage and love proved difficult when she found herself pregnant and alone. Her decision to have an abortion deeply affected her and made her value her second pregnancy with Forster Batterham so immensely that she formally converted to Catholicism and baptized their child Tamar. Her faith then put her in contact with a variety of religious publications which led her to Peter Maurin. He was the man who pushed Dorothy to create The Catholic Worker, the publication she is most famous for to this day. Peter wanted to advocate "steps that could bring about the peaceful transformation of society" (78) in a publication centered upon faith principles and believed appropriately that Dorothy was essential to the project.

On May 1, 1933, The Catholic Worker printed 2,500 copies and handed them out at the gathering of 50,000 in Union Square in New York (1-3). The printings fluctuated over the years as the publication both gained rapid successes and lost subscribers over Dorothy's unwavering stance of non-violence and appreciation of unions and protests, all of which were identified with communism. It was in this that Dorothy really created controversy.

Furthermore, it was out of the publication that houses of hospitality came about, places where staff members would feed, cloth, and shelter anyone who wished or desired it. The houses later expanded into farms and community living that staff members and faithful subscribers became residents of for years and years. It was in a house of hospitality that Dorothy finally passed away in November of 1980. She had a simple funeral with a plain casket and was dressed in donated clothes (200-201).

Overall, the novel is a quick read that touches upon the multitude of key points and people in Day's life. However, ostensibly the impressive list of events creates the illusion that one is reading an abridged version of United States and World history of the twentieth century. Consequently, to accurately portray the rest of the events occurring between the first publication of The Catholic Worker and her death a half a century later would require a much lengthier recitation, something the book does do in great detail. To demonstrate this fact, one should know that Dorothy, having been born in 1897, was privy to such high-profile events as the Women's Suffrage Movement, the Great Depression and May Day, both World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and the McCarthy era of fear, among others. Furthermore, her controversial stances put her in contact with names such as Thomas Merton, various Popes, Cesar Chavez, Mother Theresa, Leon Trotsky, and Mike Gold. While captivating, the magnitude of information and events can be viewed as wearisome and cause for some disjunction between and within the chapters. For example, Forest writes a short chapter introducing Dorothy's friendship with Ammon Hennacy and then pens a short chapter devoted to the Cold War (121-129).

While understandably necessary due to the fact that her life was extremely intertwined with these events, it left me exhausted and longing for detail about Dorothy's mannerisms and attitude. I was able to insinuate this as much as one can from learning about a plethora of her actions, but it lacked a more intimate portrait; something that surprisingly came in the Afterword. There Jim Forest revealed that he did know Dorothy personally as a co-worker at The Catholic Worker, but wanted to keep his experiences out of the narrative (202). I praise him for his professionalism and do view it as a great strength of the book; however, his short narrative at the end thoroughly entertained me and summarized the book in a more coherent and brief fashion. For example, he quotes Jack English's description of seeing Dorothy for the first time. "She talked the entire lecture with a cigarette hanging out of a corner of her mouth, with a beret on, and someone said it looked as if she needed her neck washed" (203). This description painted a vivid picture in my mind that otherwise was foggy from the snip-it's in the novel and made me long to hear her speak.

Overall I would recommend this book as it does professionally portray how involved Dorothy was in almost every major movement and protest in the twentieth century. I would just warn readers to cherish the beginning and the afterword, with their description of the intimate moments that create the person whom caused so much controversy from a love of the poor and desolate.

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