...groundbreaking ... Unforgetting is a story of two countries, inextricably bound, and Lovato is uniquely positioned to tell it ... It is a complex puzzle indeed, and Lovato is among the first Salvadoran-American writers to assemble it, shuttling back and forth in time, between countries and languages, to retrieve the pieces for a kaleidoscopic montage that is at once a family saga, a coming-of-age story and a meditation on the vicissitudes of history, community and, most of all for him, identity ... In a time of national reckoning, such truths must be faced if we are to be serious about who we are and what we have done. Lovato’s memoir confronts historical amnesia ... The picture he assembles is a mural of our complicity in systemic violence and inhumanity, and the resilience of the people who endured it.
... determined to unravel the many stereotypes that outsiders like Didion have perpetuated about the country, to make room for new insights about the trauma that generations of Salvadorans have endured ... Lovato, who is Salvadoran-American, claims early on that his book seeks to explore the roots of gang violence in El Salvador, but it is about much more than that. Unforgetting covers a lot of ground, jumping between time periods, characters, countries, and even genres ... The book illuminates the depths of violence that have shaped El Salvador ... because Unforgetting is so personal, it has much to add to the conversation on historical memory. The insights Lovato gleans about his own country’s history ultimately allow him 'to understand my family in a more complicated way, one that accommodated both its lightness and its darkness,' he writes. Much of the book’s power comes from its exploration of Lovato’s own wide-ranging life experiences ... Memoir gives the book an authenticity lacking in works by authors like Didion. He neither judges nor romanticizes the gang members he meets, speaking honestly to their struggles while never absolving them of their often violent behavior ... Lovato’s writing about memory and reconciliation speaks powerfully to a truth that Didion never took the time to really see: that terror is never a given but rather a consequence of how power is wielded in history.
... a memoir that situates his family’s story within the broader history of what he dubs 'the tiny country of titanic sorrows,' Lovato describes a personal awakening to El Salvador’s century-old cycle of violence, the process that prompted his turn to journalism as a means of grappling with the scale of the nation’s trauma ... Though his memoir is mostly concerned with the process of unearthing the experiences of violence that both he and his family (especially his father) suppressed throughout their lives, the book doubles as a journalistic bildungsroman ... Lovato’s journalism, then, is best understood as an expression of this process of unforgetting, and his work is a case study in the power that comes from a reporter deciding to write stories that speak to his own inner turmoil rather than adopting the studied dispassion typically ascribed to the profession ... If El Salvador is to emerge whole from its current fractured state, Lovato argues in Unforgetting, the nation must first stop ignoring its sinister and brutal history. He offers Pop’s process of unforgetting as a model. Admitting the reality of the horrors one has seen cannot make them go away, but airing them might, at least, create the space necessary for a departure from history to become possible.
With the precision of a master seamstress — not unlike that of his paternal grandmother, Mamá Tey, who migrated from El Salvador with the money earned courtesy of her iron Singer sewing machine — Lovato braids a narrative that spans nine decades and weaves together El Salvador’s history of genocide, civil war, revolution and migration with his family’s own ... Lovato’s book is a brave examination of the oft-erased history of Salvadorans, including those like him who grew up in San Francisco. But it’s also a call for justice and change.
Lovato, a longtime activist and journalist, undertakes a pensive journey in this memoir through various underworlds in El Salvador and the United States, with many tools and guides at his disposal. First among them is a machete. Wielded as a metaphor, its long, sharp blade is sufficient to cut through the density of buried secrets and trauma, both personal and political ... Lovato lives many lives — street tough, evangelical Christian, activist, guerrilla movement supporter — all of them Salvadoran ... In his shifting views, Lovato embodies the twisted relationship between the United States and El Salvador, where 'unforgetting' means untangling oneself from the contradictions of history ... The memoir eschews chronology, preferring a tapestry of revelations that spans both nations and generations, mirroring the fragmentation of traumatic memory itself. The narrative arcs rarely, if ever, feel disjointed, as they’re masterfully woven together via Lovato’s fluid, engaging, and incisive prose ... Traversing history once more, Unforgetting offers portraits of life after the truce ending the civil war, only to have violence take a new turn in the early 1990s.
...at once profoundly personal and historically significant ... This mix of memoir and history is an essential chronicle, solidly researched and carefully sourced, and enriched with some poetry and plenty of hard-won wisdom.
In this challenging and rewarding book, journalist and activist Lovato passionately weaves his own highly personal account with those of the people of El Salvador along with Salvadorans in the United States ... The book is not particularly easy to read, in part because of the sometimes-violent content, but also because Lovato’s work moves dizzyingly back and forth in time and place. ... Lovato’s revealing story enables us to look within minds and hearts that have been molded by immigrants’ experiences in their home country and their adopted one. A worthwhile account that brings a personal face to a complex, nuanced issue.
[A] memorable indictment of the civil war in Central America that drove a wave of migration to the U.S. ... A provocative, revealing work of journalism that explains gang behavior but does not idealize it.
Salvadoran-American journalist Lovato recounts in this anguished memoir his 2015 trip to El Salvador to investigate the country’s horrific gang wars ... Lovato delivers an intimate, gripping portrait of El Salvador’s agony.