“Unforgetting is unforgettable… 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, author of South to America
Roberto Lovato is a human rights activist, award-winning journalist, and the author of Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas. A recipient of a reporting grant from the Pulitzer Center, Lovato has chronicled some of the most pressing issues facing communities across the US and the rest of the Americas.
Stretching across North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, Lovato’s reporting opens our eyes to the connections between US foreign policy and the diaspora communities. He also advises on and writes about urgent issues, such as the immigration and refugee crisis, the drug war, violence and terrorism, criminal justice and community-based solutions addressing these issues.
Lovato’s activist career spans over thirty years, and he has served as a strategist for many significant campaigns. He conceived of and designed the Drop the I-Word Campaign (2010), which successfully removed the term “illegal immigrant” and other racist terms from the Associated Press Stylebook and newspapers throughout the country. Dedicated to systemic change, Lovato co-founded the Central American Studies Program at California State University at Northside and Presente.org, the country’s largest online Latinx organization. Most recently, Lovato served as the lead strategist and co-founded #DignidadLiteraria with authors Myriam Gurba and David Bowles. #DignidadLiteraria’s nationally recognized campaign for equity and literary justice for the more than 60 million Latinx persons left off of bookshelves of the US mobilized thousands and lead to concrete measurable commitments from major US Publishers to Latinx authors. All of Lovato’s campaigns fuse traditional storytelling techniques with organizing tools of the digital age.
The culmination of his storytelling is his reported memoir, Unforgetting. The child of Salvadoran immigrants, Lovato grew up in 1970s and 80s in San Francisco, as MS-13 and other notorious Salvadoran gangs were forming in California. In his teens, he lost friends to the escalating violence and survived acts of brutality himself. He eventually traded the violence of the streets for human rights advocacy in wartime El Salvador, where he joined the guerilla movement against the US-backed fascist military government responsible for some of the most barbaric massacres and crimes against humanity in recent history.
“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 Solito
Realizing he could be a more effective storyteller and advocate in his birthplace, Lovato returned from war-torn El Salvador to the US, where he channeled his own pain into activism and journalism focused on diaspora communities in the US. Focusing his attention on how trauma affects individual lives and societies, he began the difficult journey of confronting the roots of his own trauma in his memoir.
In Unforgetting, Lovato interweaves his father’s complicated history and his own with first-hand reportage on gang life, state violence, and the heart of the immigration crisis in both El Salvador and the US. Lovato’s memoir excavates family history and reveals the intimate stories beneath headlines about gang violence and mass Central American migration, one of the most important, yet least-understood humanitarian crises of our time—and one in which the perspectives of Central Americans in the US have been silenced and forgotten. Unforgetting was shortlisted for the 2022 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and named a “best book of the year” by the LA Times, Newsweek, and The New York Times.
Lovato’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Guernica, Le Monde Diplomatique, La Opinion, Der Spiegel and other national and international media outlets. Until 2015, he was a fellow at U.C. Berkeley’s Latinx Research Center and recently finished a teaching stint at UCLA. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Literary Nonfiction in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.here.