Méndez Award winner: Carolyn Forché's What You Have Heard Is True, a reading and book signing
Carolyn Forché's timely book, "What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance" (Penguin Press, 2019), is the winner of the 2019 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America. Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950, poet, teacher and activist Carolyn Forché has witnessed, thought about, and put into poetry some of the most devastating events of twentieth-century world history.
First awarded in 2008, the Méndez Human Rights Book Award honors the best current, fiction or non-fiction book published in English on human rights, democracy, and social justice in contemporary Latin America. The books are evaluated by a panel of expert judges drawn from academia, journalism, and public policy circles.
"What You Have Heard is True" is an account of a poet's engagement with a country going through violent change, in part funded and propelled by U.S. foreign policy. Forché first visited El Salvador in the 1970s, brought there by an enigmatic stranger who then helped her witness the struggle of peasants and the poor for peace. Forché chronicles how she transforms from a young writer with an unfocused "urge to do something in the face of some wrongdoing or injustice inflicted against another" into the lifelong activist and a "poet of witness" as she has called herself.