Buy Used
$4.21
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: ***WITHDRAWN LIBRARY COPY IN EXCEPTIONAL CONDITION*** Library backup copy that appears to have never been used. Bears the library's customary spane label/stamp, otherwise near new. SHIPS IMMEDIATELY FROM AN AMAZON WAREHOUSE! ELIGIBLE FOR FREE PRIME OR SUPER SAVER SHIPPPING!
Add to Cart
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more

Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey Paperback – June 7, 2000


See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from Collectible from
Paperback, June 7, 2000
$18.58 $0.22

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

100 M&T
100 Mysteries & Thrillers to Read in a Lifetime
Looking for something good to read? Browse our picks for 100 Mysteries & Thrillers to Read in a Lifetime, brought to you by the Amazon Book Editors.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 2nd edition (June 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569246378
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569246375
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,209,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Issan Dorsey once described himself as a "faggot speed-freak cross dresser," a description that only hints at the outrageousness of his life of substance abuse, prostitution, and female impersonation before embracing Zen in late-Sixties San Francisco. Author Schneider, himself a Zen practitioner and friend of Dorsey, presents an evenhanded account of Dorsey's extraordinary life and death. Dorsey is probably best remembered for his work with the gay community in San Francisco and the establishment of the Maitri hospice for people with AIDS, where he died of the disease in 1990. This work is not an introduction to Zen, but for anyone with an interest in the subject the book raises important questions. It gives a clear handling of the paradox that was Dorsey and the great compassion that he embodied. Recommended for public libraries.
- Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., N. Y.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Religious history rings with tales of converted libertines- -Saul, St. Augustine, Thomas Merton among them. Now, thanks to this wonderfully uplifting biography by freelance journalist Schneider, to that list can be added Issan Dorsey--the thieving, doping, female-impersonating gay hooker who became abbot of one of the nation's top Zen monasteries. Born Thomas Dorsey, Jr., in 1933, the future abbot bloomed into his homosexuality as a teenager and moved to San Francisco, where he developed a nightclub drag-queen act--and a world-class drug habit to go with it. Here, we learn much about Dorsey's life from his own mouth--Schneider interviewed Dorsey extensively, as well as his friends, for this account: ``I loved barbiturates...I'd take them by mouth, or melt them down and shoot them. If I had tracks, I'd just put makeup on them,'' says Dorsey, who hit bottom in the early 60's in Chicago while living and robbing with a hooker/stripper/thief named Bang Bang La Toure. When Dorsey moved back to San Francisco, though, he encountered LSD--and spun into a psychedelic, then spiritual, direction, eventually landing on a balcony overlooking meditators at the city's Zen Center. Dorsey decided to join them--and never looked back, devoting himself to two Zen masters, including the controversial Richard Baker (Schneider examines the Baker-Dorsey relationship as a provocative case study in the master-disciple dynamic). In time, Dorsey became abbot of the Castro district's Hartford Street Zen Center, and it's clear from the numerous testimonies here that his earlier life instilled in him an astonishing tolerance and compassion for all--a trait that inspired him to open the city's celebrated Maitri Hospice, for AIDS patients. Never fully embracing celibacy, Dorsey himself contracted AIDS, dying in 1990. Not hagiographic--Schneider emphasizes that Dorsey remained mercurial until the end--but, still, angels weep as the abbot, his body ravaged but his dignity aglow, breathes his final breath. (Eight pages of photographs--some seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
5 star
9
4 star
3
3 star
1
2 star
0
1 star
2
See all 15 customer reviews
I have known others with similar lives so the fellow whom judges this book as " straight " has a "bent" view.
Amazon Customer
Buddhism struck me as being fundamentally different, and when I read this book, I realized just how different it was.
Dave
If the book had sensational parts, that's because parts of Issan Dorsey's life were sensational and outrageous.
D. Vera

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sonia Simone-Rossney on December 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
I can appreciate that folks who knew Issan Dorsey found this watered down. I, however, didn't, and I loved the book. It's a great counter to the prissiness that tinges most zen literature. This was the first thing I read that made me think, "Well, if he was a zen teacher, maybe zen is something I want to explore."
For those who knew Issan and studied under him, please write books! He is an important teacher for the messiness and reality of this world, rather than the cozy sterility of a monastery, and I would love to know more about him.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Vera on August 15, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read the reviews of this book before purchasing it. As a queer writer in Spirituality and Religion I have a great deal of sensitivity about heterosexist bent towards gay characters and history. So, David Sunseri's review of the book sat perched on my shoulder as I read this book.

Having finished this book I have to say that I am left seriously questioning Sunseri's criticism of the book. It is a wonderful story and a tender account of a remarkable person. Having read this book and appreciating the care given to speak to the myriad parts of Issan Dorsey's (full) life story, I have to wonder if Sunseri isn't speaking from a place of internalized homophobia. Nowhere did I find the "sensationalizing" of homosexuality that Sunseri and Harper Leah (?) mention.

In fact, I am now left to believe that Sunseri and Leah would prefer a completely sex-free, queer-free reading of Dorsey's life.

If the book had sensational parts, that's because parts of Issan Dorsey's life were sensational and outrageous. That's not heterosexist bias dear ones. Heterosexist bias would be to "clean up" those stories and de-queer Dorsey. Fortunately Schneider doesn't suffer from any such prudery.

A closer reading of Sunseri's reviews show what is clearly a bitter bias towards anything involving the entire Soto Zen community. Sunseri states that quite vividly in his review of Robert Winson's "Dirty Laundry."

Fortunately, I don't suffer from that bias. I approached this book wanting to know more about this intriguing person, Issan Dorsey, who, by all accounts, wasn't afraid to embrace the totality of his life's existence and who has left a legacy of caring for others in need.
Read more ›
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dave on September 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book because I heard about a renowned Buddhist named IssanDorsey at a dharma talk. I'm gay myself, and hearing that Issan Dorsey was also a gay man made me interested in finding out about his life. So, I popped his name into a search engine, and ordered this book from amazon.
Up until recently, my relationship with religion in general has been a bad one. The tendency of Western religions to preach hate toward my kind has made it all but impossible for me to participate in any of them. Legislators on both sides of the political aisle have used religion as a vehicle for either passing laws to restrict my freedom or turn a blind eye to these efforts, for fear that any support for my community would render one 'unelectable'. None of this has made for a very good advertisement of religion for my community.
Buddhism struck me as being fundamentally different, and when I read this book, I realized just how different it was. Issan Dorsey was from my side of the tracks, and instead of preaching self-loathing to him, Buddhism taught him how he could make a major difference in the lives of those who needed him the most.
I'm pretty inspired to give this Buddhism thing a try now. I've never heard of a religion that doesn't judge people before. Maybe this is the one for me.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
I agree to some extent with some of the earlier reviews, I felt the author wrongly at times treated Issan Dorsey's homosexuality as somewhat of an exotic freakshow. But over all the author did a wonderful job of portraying the heart and nature of Issan. My only criticism would be sensationalizing Issan's sexuality. The earlier criticism one reviewer made that the book was flawed because a heterosexual was writing about a homosexual is extremely simplistic.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Reader on August 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
I found this book extremely inspiring. The life of Issan Dorsey is a must read for anyone who has ever felt dragged down, left out, and mentally or physically ill. That should include everyone!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Terrance H. Heath on February 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
I didn't know Issan Dorsey, but reading this book made me wish I did if only because he seemed a terribly interesting person and the course of his life is...well...amazing. I highly recommend it. As a gay man with an interest in Buddhism, this book was like a door opening.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Hollis on August 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
This work is so important to both the Buddhist community and anyone who has any inkling of how to create community. Isaan Dorsey was an example of the best teachings of Jesus and the best promises of Buddha. Kudos to David Schneider, et. al, for their exhaustive work and beautful tapestry. -TJ, Santa Fe, NM, USA
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
My impression from this book was it was a story of a present day Bodhisattva.

A story of a man whom lived life fearlessly. Who lived as a Herman Hesse's Narcissi but in reality not between book covers. In this book I felt was a true betrayal of the concepts of the Bodhisattva. Issan seems to have had spontaneously.

Earlier statements of cheapness is sad.Value statements betray a judgment and lack of Bodhisattva sentiment. Was Milarepa's story a cheap story? The fact that murderer he was? Or is it part of the story of that Bodhisattva's life? I find Issan Dorsey's life neither cheap or over blown. I have known others with similar lives so the fellow whom judges this book as " straight " has a "bent" view. Again cheapness ...well it saddens me to hear a student of Dharma make such a statement.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Search
ARRAY(0xa4b9d078)

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?