• What You Have Heard Is True

  • A Memoir of Witness and Resistance
  • By: Carolyn Forché
  • Narrated by: Carolyn Forché
  • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (324 ratings)

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What You Have Heard Is True  By  cover art

What You Have Heard Is True

By: Carolyn Forché
Narrated by: Carolyn Forché
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Publisher's summary

2019 National Book Award Finalist

“Reading it will change you, perhaps forever.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Astonishing, powerful, so important at this time.” (Margaret Atwood)

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 27 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.

©2019 Carolyn Forché (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

One of New York Times' critic Jennifer Szalai's 10 Best Books of 2019

New York Times Notable Book

One of
Electric Literature's 15 Best Nonfiction Books of 2019

“One recovered incident, person, landscape, and image at a time, the narrative advances, accruing tremendous authority and emotional power. It amounts to almost a shamanistic transmitting of Forché’s experience into our own…. What Leonel Gómez was really offering when he lured her down to El Salvador was the chance to become Carolyn Forché. Anyone who reads this magnificent memoir will partake of that luminous transformation.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Extraordinary . . . What You Have Heard Is True challenges us as Americans to see the people arriving at our border not only with empathy but also with the knowledge that their arrival is a manifestation of a shared history—of our shared fate.” —Suzy Hansen, The Nation

“Why would a naïve 27-year-old American poet, who speaks Spanish brokenly and knows nothing about the isthmus of the Americas, accept the invitation of a near-stranger to join him in El Salvador, on the brink of war? And why would this rumored lone wolf/communist/CIA operative/world-class marksman/small-time coffee farmer invite her? Those questions animate Forché’s dramatic memoir about her transformation into an activist for peace, justice, and human rights. Forché vividly recounts how she became enmeshed with the mysterious, politically charged man and with clergy and farmworkers as violence ensued, in a fierce narrative punctuated with short prose poem vignettes that she notes are ‘written in pencil.’ —The National Book Review

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