What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistanceby Published 19 Mar 2019
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The powerful story of a young poet who becomes an activist through a trial by fire
What You Have Heard is True is a devastating, lyrical, and visionary memoir about a young woman's brave choice to engage with horror in order to help others. Written by one of the most gifted poets of her generation, this is the story of a woman's radical act of empathy, and her fateful encounter with an intriguing man who changes the course of her life.
Carolyn Forché is twenty-seven when the mysterious stranger appears on her doorstep. The relative of a friend, he is a charming polymath with a mind as seemingly disordered as it is brilliant. She's heard rumors from her friend about who he might be: a lone wolf, a communist, a CIA operative, a sharpshooter, a revolutionary, a small coffee farmer, but according to her, no one seemed to know for certain. He has driven from El Salvador to invite Forché to visit and learn about his country. Captivated for reasons she doesn't fully understand, she accepts and becomes enmeshed in something beyond her comprehension.
Together they meet with high-ranking military officers, impoverished farm workers, and clergy desperately trying to assist the poor and keep the peace. These encounters are a part of his plan to educate her, but also to learn for himself just how close the country is to war. As priests and farm-workers are murdered and protest marches attacked, he is determined to save his country, and Forché is swept up in his work and in the lives of his friends. Pursued by death squads and sheltering in safe houses, the two forge a rich friendship, as she attempts to make sense of what she's experiencing and establish a moral foothold amidst profound suffering. This is the powerful story of a poet's experience in a country on the verge of war, and a journey toward social conscience in a perilous time.
"What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance" Reviews
A riveting, moving testament to a time that needs to be revisited and reassessed -- American government interventionist practices have become a truism, but this memoir speaks to what refuses to be cynical, or in the face of such speaks back to the work (underlined) of hope, of what has made for any kind of progress in this world, namely a people's resistance and the individual's ability to commit to those values that advocate for a better tomorrow. Read this memoir.
How can a book centered on so much struggle be so engaging? How can poetry bring such difficult truths to the world?
Carolyn Forche's memoir is a walk/crawl/hide/run/question/find/note with her through her time in late-70s pre-war El Salvador at the behest of Leonel Gomez Vides -- a story of how a knock on her door changed her life. [I knew Leonel Gomez Vides briefly -- and the story he told of his meeting with Carolyn was what led me to wait 15 years for this memoir. WELL worth the wait!]
Ms. Forche, for me -- is a kind of icon. An example (a la Jane Goodall) of how a woman embraces a chance meeting to continue in a life-changing direction that comes to define her to a wide audience. Since her experiences in Central America, Ms. Forche has been the leading voice is what she has shed light on as "Poetry of Witness."
Do follow up this reading with "The Country Between Us" to experience the stark poetry that came from this experience.
I haven't read a book this compelling in years.
Listening to Carolyn Forche read this book (through Audible) was an incredible experience. I felt honored to listen to the author read her own words. I can see the history of El Salvador and the United States as it was when Carolyn Forche was there, as the war began; and can see some ways history is playing out in current events today. This history, the lack of lesons learned, the lack of compassion and the lack of taking responsbility is a tragedy for El Salvador, for the United States and the world.
I really thank Carolyn Forche for speaking out so eloquently and giving us such a fine example of what it is to bear witness.
I read her poem "The Colonel" at a masterclass and was astonished at how much could be said in 20 some lines of poetry. Reading this memoir puts all the context behind that poem. Incredibly important read and written with a searing eye at the scale of human and moral devastation.