What You Have Heard is True

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For fans of Carolyn Forché’s poetry, the life she unveils in What You Have Heard is True will speak directly to the activism and social consciousness present in her poems. Those unfamiliar with her poetry will be drawn in by the mystery and intimacy in the story she tells of herself as a young woman discovering the world and its injustices through one singular relationship.

In the late seventies, shortly after her first book of poems won the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, Forché answered a knock on her door that would change her life. The relative of a friend stood before her, a man she’d heard referred to as a mysterious loner, with his two daughters. They had driven from El Salvador to Southern California to meet the poet because, as Leonel Gomez Vides would soon tell her, he believed she could understand and help with the situation in El Salvador, a country on the brink of war and built on deceit, corruption, and fear.

Forché recounts the time she spent with Vides and the effect it has on her life in the kind of detail that sweeps you into the story. At times the book feels more like a novel than a memoir given the intrigue, danger, suffering, and deep empathy of its protagonist.

What You Have Heard is True is a brilliant book allowing readers an opportunity to see how one woman’s life was irrevocably changed. Carolyn Forché’s story of justice is particularly poignant in our current political and social climate.

Reviewed By:

Author Carolyn Forché
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count
Publisher Penguin Press
Publish Date 2019-03-19
ISBN 9780525560371
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue August 2019
Category Biographies & Memoirs


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