From Union Square to Rome
By Dorothy Day
Four To-Be-Read Piles =
Totally Worthy of Your To-Be-Read Pile!
Reviewer: Sage Webb
Having spent the last couple weeks gut-twisted because of the riots, looting, destruction, and social unrest in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city I once called home full time (and still call “home”—in some way—often enough), I have to write here of Dorothy Day. Whatever one’s thoughts regarding Christianity, social activism, the Catholic Church, and radical social justice, Dorothy Day provides an example of living out one’s ideals. Once a young writer for radical papers in NYC, Day championed the cause of the homeless, the hungry, the disenfranchised. With Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker movement in the 1930s and went on to show up on Pope Francis’s 2015 list of great Americans, which included Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.
In From Union Square to Rome (published by Orbis Books), Day gives an account of her youthful social activism, her work as a reporter for a socialist paper, the people she knew in the world of radical social-justice work, her time in custody for a sentence stemming from suffragist protesting, her work as a nurse, the birth of her daughter, and her conversion to Catholicism (which would lead her to blend her earlier views with Christianity and found the Catholic Worker movement). The book is written as a sort of “letter of explanation” to Day’s brother, who had his own life on the far Left.
Union Square, first released in 1938, does not sit as one of Day’s more popular works, and it lives in the shadow of her later (1952) autobiography The Long Loneliness. It perhaps doesn’t have the deep bass reverberation of Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain. And Day’s granddaughter Kate Hennessy gives a broader, more comprehensive look at Day’s life in Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty. But in Union Square, Day reminds those on both sides of the political and social spectrum of the common values shared by all humankind . . . and the need for a commitment to this little community on a little planet in a whole lot of black space.