“Mayan communities in Guatemala remember the government’s genocidal assault of the 1980s as la violencia: The Violence. Survivors protected themselves by a culture of silence. A middle-aged American stranger who knew little Spanish came to teach English and, somehow, encouraged young Mayan university students to share their pain-filled memories with her and with each other. This book records that extraordinary achievement.”
Staughton Lynd, oral historian, author, lawyer, peace activist
“Laurie Levinger has given voice to victims of violence whose stories have been hidden by a code of silence dictated by fear. These are Mayan university students attending classes alongside the privileged offspring of an elite class sheltered from the realities of life in their own Guatemala. Thus a wealthy adolescent who had lived her whole life in Guatemala during the years of the conflict would ask, “What war?” when the author asked politely how those years had affected her. Until Laurie overcame the language barrier to listen with profound respect to the stories of these Mayan youth, they had not even had the opportunity to share their experiences among themselves, let alone the larger world. Their moving histories portray families with the courage and resilience of survivors determined to make a better world.”
Sue Ellen Kingsley, accompanier and human rights activist in Guatemala; director and founder of Copper Country Guatemala Accompaniment Project; board director of Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
“Too often people in the United States only think of the Maya in terms of their ancient past. With the growing presence today of Maya in all realms of Guatemalan social, political, and economic life, the voices of Maya university students stand out as particularly articulate. These are young people who were born into a generation of violence as the Guatemalan Civil War claimed the lives of family members and forced whole communities to move. The students interviewed in this volume have vivid memories of their experiences and, importantly, they were willing to share their stories with Laurie Levinger and with us, the readers of What War?“
Carol Hendrickson, PhD University of Chicago, Professor Hampshire College
“History, told through the stories of those who lived it, compels us to listen with our hearts, with compassion and a promise to be alert…alert to the suffering of the victims. The visible and invisible scars recounted in these remarkable lived chronicles gives us a new appreciation of the evil perpetrated in the name of government, and the incredible beauty and strength of the human character. Levinger has captured an extraordinary account of the young men and women who are working to overcome the tragedy of their childhoods. She is to be commended for listening with her heart to the unhearable.”
Charlotte Houde Quimby, MSN
“How do people survive terrible events and yet retain a sense of hope and possibility? This question echoes throughout this powerful and courageous book. When the Guatemalan Civil War broke in upon their lives, most of the men and women who tell their stories here were very young. And now, after years of keeping silent, they tell their stories: stories of loss, of violence, of shame, of displacement, of the love and courage of families who struggled to carry on. Laurie Levinger, with a therapist’s skill and patience and with a sensitive outsider’s eye for the beauties of another culture, encourages her conversation partners to explore their memories and to make sense of the past. As she sets these stories in their historical and sociological context, and as she draws out the larger themes embedded within them, Levinger presents a richly-textured portrait of the realities of genocidal conflict. Anyone with interest in the Maya people, in the human costs of war, or in the miraculous resiliency of the human spirit must hear these narratives. And anyone who responds to the cry ‘Never again!’ must read this book.”
Susan White, PhD University of Notre Dame
“Laurie Levinger, a retired social worker, went to Guatemala five years ago with volunteers to teach English to Maya university scholarship recipients. Well-trained, intelligent, perceptive and kind, Laurie began to hear her students’ life histories, how they had been affected by the violence perpetrated on their communities by the Guatemalan military. We hear Mayan voices who witnessed these events or felt the ripple effect of this hidden, rural war. These narratives are not only gripping, they tell a universal story of how even under the most terrible circumstances people manage to survive and succeed.”
Chris Lutz, PhD University of Wisconsin-Madison, historian of colonial Guatemala and co-founder of the Maya Educational Foundation
“I am a survivor of the Guatemala civil war.”
I just received my copy this week and read the whole book already. It is truly humbling. One of the purposes of this book is to tell the world what happened during the 36 year war in Guatemala. As more people, both inside and outside of Guatemala, learn the truth about the war, the burden of having to “keep the silence” over the years gets lighter for all Mayan survivors who suffered profoundly from this violence.
Here’s a quote from one of the interviewed survivors ” I will be a responsible father, I don’t want my child to miss the affection of a father. I want my child to be a good person, and when he grows up, I will tell him of my past so that he can reflect and appreciate life and learn how to respect the rights of everyone in the world”.
The book is extraordinary. You should read it. The book is available in both English and Spanish. Please contact Laurie Levinger .
Felipe Gonzalez, Maya Earth Coffee