Carolyn Forché was well known as a poet before she published this memoir, which took her over a decade to write. Hers was always a poetry of engagement, and of testimony. There was always a blend of urgency--an urgency called forth by the subject--and of distance: the distance of another country, another language, a lapse in time of, and the distance of an intellect wording emotion. What You Have Heard Is True exhibits the same sensibility in a narrative mode, and it's every bit as powerful as the poetry. Forché is approached out of the blue by one Leonel Gómez Vides, a coffee farmer turned organizer and activist, who has a network of contacts from diplomats to campesinos in the El Salvador of the late 70s. He shows up at Forché's door in California and persuades her to ride around the Salvadoran countryside with him as he goes about his mysterious work; she is urged to see details, and to understand how people live; occasionally she shares their conditions. Just observing is harrowing; one wonders how a sheltered young academic from El Norte endured it. But she does some very brave things, which almost nothing else in her life prepared her for. Her sojourns in El Salvador's shape the rest of her life. This book is a labor of love, memory, witness-- and exquisite craft.