...extraordinary ... her memoir gracefully traces her evolution from an ignorant but curious young American to a writer committed to documenting in her poetry the horrifying details of war ... Forché’s memoir is an attempt not only to illustrate those connections [between Americans and other peoples] but also to provide readers with a path to a similar kind of moral evolution ... Forché’s memoir is so meticulous and specific in her documentation of what war is—children staring in frightened fascination at corpses, a torture victim’s severed fingers flushed down the toilet—that her book becomes a necessary corrective to the cold, bureaucratic language of U.S. politicians ... A book like 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.
Gripping ... recounts how and why its author began to write the kind of poetry she published in her 1981 book The Country Between Us, what she calls 'the poetry of witness' ... One might expect a poet’s prose to be florid, or at least highly metaphorical. But Forché honors her responsibility to the Salvadoran calamity by writing sparely and precisely. On occasion, recalling the verdant fields and starry nights of Central America, she can wax lyrical. More often, the poet’s voice is manifest in a luminous sentence ... Much of the book consists of extended conversations between Forché and the varied people she meets. And though it is highly improbable that she could remember everything that was said verbatim, what appears in the book seems plausible ... A portrait of the artist as political and poetic ingénue, What You Have Heard Is True is just such a response, a riveting account of how she made good on that conviction. It bears eloquent witness to injustice and atrocity and to how observing them shaped a fearless poet.
...extraordinary ... Written with a thriller writer's knack for narrative tension and a poet's gorgeous sentences and empathy ... Forché paints a beautiful and chilling portrait of pre-war El Salvador ... In Forché's stark rendering — she struggles at first to accept what she sees, and then her vision gains a camera's coldness — all of this is simply heart-stopping, and feels utterly present, utterly pressing.