Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas

21,000+ Reviews
Bookshop.org has the highest-rated customer service of any bookstore in the world
Product Details
Harper Perennial
Publish Date
5.2 X 7.8 X 0.8 inches | 0.6 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate
About the Author

Roberto Lovato is a journalist and a member of The Writers Grotto. He is one of the country's leading writers and thinkers on Central American gangs, refugees, violence and other issues. Lovato is also a co-founder of #DignidadLiteraria, the national movement formed to combat the invisibility and silencing of Latinx stories and books in the U.S. publishing industry. He is also recipient of a reporting grant from the Pulitzer Center and a former fellow at U.C. Berkeley's Latinx Research Center. His essays and reporting have appeared in numerous publications including Guernica, Boston Globe, Foreign Policy, Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Der Spiegel, La Opinion, and other national and international publications. He lives in San Francisco.


"What is Unforgetting--a coming of age story, a thriller, a slice of hemispheric history? All I can say for sure is that it's both gripping and beautiful. With the artistry of a poet and the intensity of a revolutionary, Lovato untangles the tightly knit skein of love and terror that connects El Salvador and the United States. This book is an eye-opener into a world Anglo-Americans have been taught is enemy territory." -- Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Natural Causes and Nickel and Dimed

"There has never been a book about the Latinx experience quite like Roberto Lovato's Unforgetting. Here is a voice that is outraged, philosophical, thoughtful, blunt, emotional, and, above all, fiercely independent. In this illuminating and insightful memoir, Lovato journeys into the underworlds of the fraught history of El Salvador, and his own California upbringing, and finds injustice, resistance, and hope." -- Héctor Tobar, author of Deep Down Dark and The Tattooed Soldier

"Groundbreaking.... 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 [Lovato], identity." -- Carolyn Forché, New York Times

"Journalist Lovato's raw memoir moves from his youth in 1970s California to his time in war-torn El Salvador. He writes unflinchingly about extreme poverty and the trauma of violence and war in a way that is at once extremely personal, expansive and timely." -- Newsweek

"Electrifying. . . . Throughout this panoptic personal narrative, Lovato aims to reframe Salvadoran American identity itself. And at a crucial national moment, he also reminds us that diaspora Latin Americans in the United States . . . share a collective experience marked by historical trauma but also enormous wells of resilience." -- Daniel Hernandez, Los Angeles Times

"Lovato... a preeminent voice on Central America's tribulations... shows how reportage that is rooted in personal biography and inner turmoil can unveil a more powerful kind of truth." -- New Republic

"With the precision of a master seamstress... 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." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"For generations, from McKinley to Trump, the United States has cast a shadow of exploitation and counter-revolution over Central America. In this stunning tale of love and horror, the journalist Roberto Lovato recounts how his own family history, from the indentured Salvadoran countryside to the burning streets of Los Angeles, has been shaped by resistance to yanqui violence." -- Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Set the Night on Fire

"'Unforgetting' explores the traumatic history of a country torn apart by wars and gangs--and the dangers of not facing the past.... The title of Lovato's book: "Unforgetting" is both a salve and a way of exposing the truth.... Lovato's writing about memory and reconciliation speaks powerfully to [the] truth... that terror is never a given but rather a consequence of how power is wielded in history." -- New Republic

"In a memoir that is at once profoundly personal and historically significant, accomplished journalist and scholar Lovato... relates gripping true stories populated by heroic, doomed, resilient, and unforgettable characters who shine in their humanity, hope, and endurance. 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." -- Booklist, starred review

"A provocative, revealing work of journalism that explains gang behavior but does not idealize it." -- Kirkus

"Unforgetting is unforgettable. It teaches an essential history which all of us desperately need in order to understand the society in which we live. A finely woven tapestry of inheritance, culture and love, this story of Latinidad in the United States is specifically Salvadoreño yet sits in a breathtaking archipelago of communities and histories on and across borders. With marvelous, intimate storytelling Lovato's coming of age story displaces ugly myths about Central America and its gangs with the truth of what made America, beginning with the ongoing violence of conquest and culminating with the gorgeous repetition of freedom dreams." -- Imani Perry, Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of Looking for Lorraine and Breathe: A Letter to My Sons

"Mixing fraught reminiscence with vivid reportage... Lovato delivers an intimate, gripping portrait of El Salvador's agony." -- Publishers Weekly

"Salvadorans are 'a people in the constant motion of overcoming, ' Roberto Lovato writes in his pivotal debut Unforgetting. In it, he runs a machete through himself and his family's history--the 1932 Matanza, the 1980s civil war, and our present-day struggles with gang-violence and migration. With raw honesty, Lovato partakes in a much-needed excavation of what it means to be 'Salvadoran'--and 'American'--in this world. Unforgetting is an opening, a tear in the cloth, we Salvadorans must speak through." -- Javier Zamora, author of Unaccompanied