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Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion (Radcliffe Biography Series) Paperback – January 22, 1989


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Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion (Radcliffe Biography Series) + The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist + Loaves and Fishes: The Inspiring Story of the Catholic Worker Movement
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Product Details

  • Series: Radcliffe Biography Series
  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (January 22, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201079747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201079746
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize-winning Coles ( Children of Crisis ) here presents Dorothy Day, founder of the newspaper the Catholic Worker , whom he acknowledges as spiritual mentor. "Day's compelling point of view is expressed in story format in an unconventional biography that is appropriate for the sensual woman many consider a saint," wrote PW.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This is a good book, but it's in an interview format, with extensive quotes from Day.
LisaPizza
Coles kept notes on his many converstations with Day, and in this book shares with his readers his intimate knowledge of this extraordinary woman.
Susan Law
I read this in an evening and a day, and found it inspiring, satisfying, and altogether well written.
Robert H. Nunnally Jr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Robert H. Nunnally Jr. on August 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Susan Law on July 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Bristow on January 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
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
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LisaPizza on July 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good book, but it's in an interview format, with extensive quotes from Day. That's great, but I was hoping for more of a critical and intellectual analysis of her body of work, and of the development of her thought.
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More About the Author

Robert Coles is professor emeritus at Harvard University and the author of numerous books, including his series Children of Crisis, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. He has also won a MacArthur Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a National Humanities Medal. He lives in Massachusetts.

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Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion (Radcliffe Biography Series)
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