Writing Straight With Crooked Lines: A Memoir

Jim Forest has spent a lifetime in the cause of peace and reconciliation. In this memoir he traces his story through his intimate encounters with some of the great peacemakers of our time, including Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan, Henri Nouwen, and Thich Nhat Hanh. The son of ardent Communists, his remarkable journey led to his enlistment in the Navy, and then his discharge as a conscientious objector following his conversion to Catholicism. From the Catholic Worker in New York he went on to play a key role in mobilizing religious protest against the Vietnam War and served a year in prison for his role in destroying draft records in Milwaukee. But his journey continued, including extensive travels in Russia in the last years of the USSR, his reception into the Orthodox Church, and his work as the author of over a dozen books on spirituality and peacemaking.

“How do we live an honest life in such a dishonest world? With humor and pathos, Jim Forest answers that question in an extraordinary and deeply personal memoir. Through his life-long nonviolent commitment to world peace and justice, he shows how the crooked lines lead straight to a simple truth: If what we believe is not costly, we are left to question its value.” –Martin Sheen

“Jim, my brother in nonviolent arms, writes beautifully about his dedication to truth, love, and activism.” — Joan Baez

“A beautiful, heartfelt and inspiring memoir from one of the most significant Christian peacemakers and spiritual writers of our time.”—James Martin, SJ, author, Jesus: A Pilgrimage

“Jim Forest’s record of an exceptional life of witness and discipleship is a unique record of both activism and deep spiritual discovery. It is a precious testament to a whole age of generous and risky Christian radicalism – and as such it is water in our contemporary wilderness.”— Rowan Williams

“Jim Forest is a gifted story teller and what stories he has to tell! His story, like ours, is the journey of the peacemaker in a world of war, which is never a straight line, but more like a zig-zag journey from peace to peace.”—Rev. John Dear, activist and author of Living Peace

“Forest is in a class by himself. His memoir could well inspire in a new generation an emulation for contemplation in action inspired by the memoirs of his mentors Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day.”—Jonathan Montaldo, editor of Thomas Merton’s Choosing to Love the World

Jim Forest will have you engaged from the first paragraph of this compelling book. It is not only a spiritual memoir, but the story of our country and the world in the tumultuous 20th century.”— Judith Valente, former PBS-TV journalist and author

Jim Forest is most often recognized through his fruitful friendships with and biographies of some of the most influential Catholic leaders of the 20th century: Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Daniel Berrigan, S.J. Now the subject is himself, and it is Forest’s own fascinating life, bolstered by his association with a colorful cast of radical characters, that makes this autobiography an engrossing read…. The emphasis on “becoming” is useful for understanding Forest’s book, which portrays a man moving ever toward something, becoming someone new through interactions with his friends, his mentors and his faith.— Ryan Di Corpo, America magazine

Jim Forest is the author of many books, including All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day, Living with Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton, At Play in the Lions’ Den: A Biography and Memoir of Daniel Berrigan, The Ladder of the Beatitudes and Praying with Icons (all Orbis Books). He lives in Alkmaar, the Netherlands. The publisher is Orbis Books.