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What happens when a lapsed Catholic relapses?

“Growing up, Oakes  felt many a dark night of the soul, though at the time she didn’t know to call it such, and rather than turn to God, she turned into an angry, punk-rock, alterna-chick who preferred swearing and ranting over prayer. Yet now, on the cusp of midlife and all its crises, Oakes, a lecturer who teaches writing at UC Berkeley, is still swearing up a storm and taking the Lord’s name in vain, but she’s turned to God and can’t seem to look away. What’s more, she has discovered she is Catholic through and through, despite the Vatican’s politics (which she despises). This memoir tells the story of this unlikely convert—as she sees herself—in all its gory detail. Oakes doesn’t mince words or clean up her language, and doubt, frustration, and anger are frequent companions on her journey. Oakes not only treats readers to gorgeous prose, but manages to provide an overview and history of the best of the Catholic faith, without losing momentum.” Starred review, Publishers Weekly

“Oakes’ needling and questioning serve her well as she explores the world’s most populous religion, and her doubts echo those of many others in a time when the church is mired in scandal after scandal… Oakes’ writing invites readers inside the process of sorting out beliefs with a crooked grin and self-effacing poke at her own liberal attitude… Her eventual belief in a church that meets the needs of everyone, sinners and skeptics alike, is palpable — and perhaps enough to get other disenfranchised believers to look twice.”Bitch Magazine

“As a pro-choice feminist in the California punk scene, Kaya Oakes seems an unlikely person to find a connection with the Catholic church [...} Oakes' conversational style and self-deprecation make this book engaging and fascinating, particularly for those who have turned their backs on religion." (five out of five stars) BUST Magazine

"Honestly, humorously, and irreverently recounted... A clarion call for an institution’s radical reinvention." Booklist

"Radical Reinvention is a bold and affecting memoir from Kaya Oakes, a passionate and irreverent account of her return to the Catholic church on her own DIY terms. Informative, irreverent, and often hilarious, Oakes has written one of the most important books about religion of the year." LargeHearted Boy

"Oakes turns the typical conceit of the conversion memoir – your self-concept as a generally decent and capable person is an illusion and you need God – on its head: your self-concept as a fuck-up is an illusion; God accepts you as you are, believes your happiness is important, and expects you to work on being kinder to yourself and others. The result is a fascinating window into the world of belief that doesn’t lead the reader to a foregone conclusion about the nature of God or Christianity. Radical Reinvention is a welcome relief to the however thickly veiled proselytizing religious memoir: overall a Bay Area charmer, replete with pitch-perfect detail of an interesting life." Zyzzyva 

"This is the Church that Oakes is coming back to and that she wants her readers to understand: a Church that at its core believes in doing the right thing, even tries to do the right thing, but that has been pulled off the tracks by the institutionalization and corruption of power in its history—and is still struggling with equating that core and that history... What she does do [...] is engage the reader in a great deal of intentional joy, and that alone is worth the read.” Sadie Magazine

Clergy [should] read this book. Some may have a knee-jerk reaction and want to throw it away perhaps, but her insight into the younger generation (Generation Xer’s and Millenials) and their thoughts about theology, parish life, and the Church is important. If anything it will make a priest stop and think for a while, which of course is a good thing.” Walking With God

“By writing this book and continuing to take action based on her progressive beliefs, Kaya is helping to blaze a new trail.  She will be the first to tell you that she did not start the movement.  It began centuries ago.  But she is doing something fresh and unexpected.  [...] with the story she tells of her radical return to the Catholic Church, Kaya is setting an example for the rest of us, no matter our religious beliefs or cultural backgrounds.  You fight what is wrong with the world and you continue to love, to pray, to believe change is possible.” The Existential Porcupine

“…the best kind of spiritual memoir: One that is deeply personal but also incredibly accessible… She finds herself being led in spiritual direction by priests who support women, speaking in churches with congregations of gay families, meeting nuns who care for the poor and work for reform, women who have been ordained by Bishops acting against the Vatican; and it is in these people that she finds her way back to the faith of her youth and transforms it into a faith for the future.” The Anarchist Reverend

“I don’t always read spiritually charged memoirs, but when I do, I prefer them riddled with f-bombs… Oakes’ book is a mighty, courageous, stand-up-and-scream-to-be-heard powerhouse of God-loving feminist rage; yet, it is also reflective, forthright, and gratifyingly sensible… Radical Reinvention is at its heart a story of proactively belonging somewhere you’re taught that you don’t belong.” Timestage Embassy

“Tired of pretending she doesn’t believe in God, Oakes decides to fully confront the Church she left behind. She grits her teeth at the Vatican, hashes out her issues with Jesus, re-discovers some kick-ass women saints to pray to, helps her church feed the homeless, meets a group of progressive lesbians and ex-nuns who are fighting the Church from within, researches original Hebrew texts, cracks open the essence of the gospel,  becomes a budding theologian, and fights like hell for LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom and radical inclusion.” Hipster Book Club

Counterpoint Press, ISBN 978-1593764319

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Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture

Read the introduction here (PDF)

A San Francisco Chronicle Bay Area Notable Book of 2009

One of LargeHeartedBoy’s Top Nonfiction Books of 2009

“Relays indie’s development with uncommon insight [and] makes an impassioned, optimistic case for indie’s vitality that doesn’t assume readers are coming to [the] book already well versed in the subject. A comprehensive approach to a subject that is too often reduced to discrete parts¦. Fresh and perceptive.”San Francisco Chronicle

“[An] absorbing nonfiction study of indie culture…. Oakes is no dry outsider. She believes in what she describes, she contributes to it and she speaks its language.” — The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“Oakes easily weaves in and out of various histories and draws parallels between the New York School poets publishing themselves with mimeo machines in the ’60s, the rise of punk zines in the ’80s and riot grrrl zines in the ’90s, and the blogs, chapbooks, and small press publishers supporting the independent writers of today… Slanted and Enchanted shows how what once was has re-emerged and redefined itself time and time again. It is not a lament of the past, nor does it declare the end of indie culture. It is a reaffirmation of the culture and a promise that there is more to come.” — Bookslut

“[A] lively and highly literate explication of various American indie scenes and art forms . . . [Oakes'] focus on independent publishing and writing provides a worthy parallel narrative to Michael Azzerad’s essential indie music history, [Our]Band Could Be Your Life . . . Oakes begins the book with a much appreciated primer on some of the intellectual forebears of her book’s central characters, including the poets Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg and the revolutionary street theater group the Diggers. As an explanation and excavation of the already fading recent past, it is essential reading.”Publishers Weekly

“[F]illed with excellent and extensive reporting… provides a sustained look at indie culture itself, from the mule-like stamina of Mike Watt (former bassist for the Minutemen and Black Flag) to the institutional significance of punk club 924 Gilman Street, the influence of K Records founder Calvin Johnson and the overlooked politics of Riot Grrrl… a superb analysis of 21st century culture.” –Toronto Star

“Oakes doesn’t mythologize the movement she chronicles. Nor does she make the mistake of thinking its existence depends on jeering at whatever it is not. Her treatment of the evolution of “indie culture”… is wise, expansive and a little wistful. It understands both history and its passage. And it carries no bitterness that “indie” is largely gone, not because it was defeated but because it triumphed.” — Huffington Post

[C]ompelling… Oakes isn’t just approaching the subject academically, she’s not just studying the sociological impact of an unfamiliar subculture; she’s telling her own story… deftly weaves her own experiences in with interviews and commentary from musicians, poets,  and underground comic artists… a fabulous testament to the adaptability of indie… and the freedom afforded by DIY.” — Popmatters

“Given all the possible routes Oakes could have taken in navigating this scene, her choices here, everything from music to publishing to comics and crafts add breadth and purpose to the book… The evolution of this cultural resource manual is not just a one-stop guide to punks and zines and too-tight, tapered trousers, it is a peek into a lifestyle that cannot quite be pinned down.” — MARY Magazine


“Oakes’ status as a participant-observer adds insight to all of the scene-setting and scene-hopping without making them inaccessible. The people and movements that she encounters encompass a wide variety of disciplines and genres. Placed together in the context of the book they represent a wide-ranging and loosely knit community of like-minded individuals bushwhacking their parallel trails.” — The Fanzine

“An intelligent… passionate manifesto for Indie culture and its ideals.” Synthesis Weekly

“A guaranteed conversation-starter at a point when technology and changing times have made the line of demarcation between mainstream and indie almost unrecognizable.’ ”

“Oakes pulled me in… [she] identifies the point where comics publishers twigged that a whole new market could be opened up with a simple repackaging expedient: gathering serial comics into single-volume collections that could be sold in any respectable bookstore. That use of “respectable” is of course laced with deliberate irony on Oakes’ part, acknowledging as it does the long and tangled history of the formr’s stepchild status within the wider literary world.” — Montreal Gazette

“As Oakes reminds us, indie culture has a strong history of reciprocity between producer and consumer; it is a creative community that should produce an equal amount of inspiration and consumption. . . . Covering musicians, zines, comics, independent presses, and homemade crafts and events, Oakes uses the concept of a creative community as a mediating theme to illustrate how indie culture has oscillated between the music and literary scene throughout the last few decades. . . . this will particularly appeal to artists, musicians, writers, and kids with thick-rimmed glasses.”Library Journal

“Oakes’ entry on underground comics gives a focused history for the uninitiated, while her firsthand experiences in self-reliant publishing provide a unique insider’s view of the struggles to keep such operations afloat. Luminaries such as itinerant bassist Mike Watt, Silver Jews leader David Berman and Ghost World author Dan Clowes give further insight into their respective fields.”Kirkus Reviews


Telegraph, currently available from Small Press Distribution


“First books often offer versions of resurrection and Kaya Oakes’ moving debut in TELEGRAPH charts a coming back to life with uncompromising lucidity and sorrow. In poetry rife with a bodily knowledge of the inherent second-nessof women’s history, Oakes writes for the one and the many, Elektra her guide in the passage. “I wonder if this earth meant anything when I leant my form to it,” the personae wonders in the final poem, and wonderfully, readers will find that it does, thanks to the earnest care of Kaya Oakes’ making.” Claudia Keelan

A review of Telegraph in Rain Taxi.

And another in Xantippe.

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