As a young poet translating work into Spanish, Carolyn Forché couldn’t always understand the conditions from which the Salvadoran poems she translated arose. That changed when human rights activist Leonel Gomez Vides “removed the blindfold, and ordered me to open my eyes.” This searing and unforgettable memoir, whose title comes from Forché’s frequently anthologized poem “The Colonel”, traces her experiences in El Salvador as a poet and human rights activist, through the publication of her collection The Country Between Us and the assassination of Archbishop Monsenor Oscar Romero.
If you wonder why people are buzzing about the presidential prospects of a 37-year-old mayor of a midsize Midwestern city, read Pete Buttigieg’s memoir, Shortest Way Home. Buttigieg may be the intellectually deepest and most thoughtful of the Democratic presidential crop, despite his age. A history and literature major at Harvard and Rhodes Scholar, his deep love of novels comes through as he eloquently traces his roots in South Bend, interest in government, enlistment in the Navy reserves and deployment to Afghanistan, ascent to the mayoralty and, on the eve of his re-election, decision to come out as a gay man. A refreshing voice and a talented Millennial worth watching as he contemplates a run for the White House.
In this extraordinary memoir, Yip-Williams chronicles the years following her diagnosis with stage IV cancer. She confronted the disease with everything she had: rage—especially on behalf of her young daughters and husband—fear, guilt, grief, and, occasionally, hope. A realist, Yip-Williams had a complicated relationship with hope, that source of “joy, terror, and despair.” Seeing it taunt with mirages of cures and miracles, she didn’t trust it. Yet if she failed to grab for every additional day of life, however iffy the treatment—would she be giving up? Is that how she wanted her children to remember her? By speaking so honestly about the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll of living with cancer, Yip-Williams put the disease on her terms—the very opposite of giving up.