El Salvador Could Be Like That

By Joseph B. Frazier

Biography & memoir, General non-fiction | Paperback, eBook


Joseph Frazier submitted over 400 wire stories during his time as Central American Correspondent for the Associated Press on the war in El Salvador. His memoir shows what it meant to be an American journalist trying to get the story out during the war, and awakening to both the duplicity and incoherence of the US government, and dealing with distant editors at New York desks with their commercial demands to sell papers. A lingering resolution years later was the deep need to tell the story of how the war effected the everyday people of El Salvador. Along the way, we find a story woven of revolution, guerrilla warfare, the atrocities of death squads, liberation theology, the assassination of Bishop Romero, the economics and politics of civil war, the brutal eccentricity of General Maximillian, the unlikely surfers' paradise where combatants tolerate a drink together, the last of the Communist firebrands "The Red Ghost", and how words like “communist” drives dehumanizing violence - an entire constellation of human extremes, seen and reported on first-hand, from the ground. The human-scale spirit of the book has been recognized by fellow journalists and readers who are connected in many ways to Latin America and El Salvador (embassy staff, fellow journalists, NGO workers, Peace Corp volunteers, etc.), as you will find in the following quoted reviews. This book is not just a remarkable accounting of “tiny, bludgeoned El Salvador”, but through the mirror of the history of the war, we learn about fundamental dynamics of history and the dramatic spectrum of being human. Editorial Reviews for El Salvador Could Be Like That “As a memoir of an Associated Press correspondent, El Salvador Could Be Like That puts the reader on the ground as a witness to the unfolding of a civil war, and provides the political and historical background that surfaces the underlying factors that led to the conflict. It is both a memoir and a cautionary tale of the true costs of war as seen from the ground and in the lives of Salvadorans. Frazier evokes the sounds, sights and feelings of wartime El Salvador. Read for its compelling narrative, for its previously untold history of a war, and to support the role of on the ground journalism in our collective understanding of the world.” —Juanita Darling, Ph.D., assistant professor of International Relations at San Francisco State University, veteran Latin American correspondent for the Los Angeles Times “An insightful analysis of the way nations break apart; a disturbing look at the war correspondent’s life; and above all, a poignant, deeply personal story about a great reporter’s efforts to come to terms with what he has seen and experienced.” —Stephen Kinzer, award-winning New York Times foreign correspondent, International Relations, Boston University. “Joseph Frazier’s book brings all his expertise, compassion and flair to the deeply compelling story of that hidden war which cost 75,000 lives. His eye is extraordinary. He sees through the fog and disinformation of both sides, sees the war’s political complexity, and makes us feel its human cost. And he gets its ironies—Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller are somewhere smiling upon this account.” —Journalist and filmmaker Mary Jo McConahay, author of National Geographic Book of the Month, Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest “Evoking a distant war that no one should forget. Certainly those who of us who covered it never will. Hats off to Joe Frazier for this important book.” —Scott Wallace, writer, photographer, broadcast journalist, CBS, CNN, National Geographic, the New York Times and other outlets, author of The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes “Anybody who wants to be a journalist – or a better journalist – will benefit from Frazier’s shining example in this book.” —Tico Times, Costa Rica, editorial Selections from Unsolicited Amazon Reviews “This book has helped me understand much more clearly the history that lies just below the surface - those things that ‘everyone knows’ but no one speaks of, and of which it is impolite to ask. Mr Frazier has taken a complicated topic and painted a picture that is clear and balanced. I am going to put this book on the ‘must read’ list for anyone considering joining our [aid project] team for our next project.” WM Rijder “I spent four years at the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador; Joe and I overlapped for much of the time. Now as then, he is smart, comprehensible and engaged....If you want to read a fair account of a people, a country and a policy shot through with contradictions, you should buy and read this book.” - Don R. Hamilton “The main reason this is such a good and illuminating read about ‘the Tom Thumb of the Americas’ during its horrible and heroic revolutionary era is because Frazier really cared. Not about which camp was going to come away with the geopolitical prize, but about the country folk and city folk, the shopkeepers and dirt farmers and bus drivers and coffee pickers and shine boys and pupusa flippers whose sons and brothers (sisters, too, in the case of the rebel army) were killing and getting killed along the road leading from a quasi-feudal repressive system of economy and politics to an approximation of democratic modernity. ...Those of us who had the good fortune and privilege to live there for a long stretch, to share in the pain and the progress and the quotidian celebration of life at which Salvadorans are so adept, salute Joe Frazier for providing such a coherent and fervent portrayal of a time, a place and the people inhabiting them.” - Douglas Grant Mine


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Joseph Frazier submitted over 400 wire stories during his time as Central American Correspondent for the Associated Press on the war in El Salvador. His memoir shows what it meant to be an American journalist trying to get the story out during the war, and awakening to both the duplicity and incoherence of the US government, and dealing with distant editors at New York desks with their commercial demands to sell papers. A lingering resolution years later was the deep need to tell the story of how the war effected the everyday people of El Salvador. Along the way, we find a story woven of revolution, guerrilla warfare, the atrocities of death squads, liberation theology, the assassination of Bishop Romero, the economics and politics of civil war, the brutal eccentricity of General Maxim...


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Joe Frazier grew up in Eugene, Oregon and after returning from a tour with the Marines in Vietnam, completed his studies at the University of Oregon. He was named Central America Correspondent by the Associated Press in 1982 and submitted wire stories nearly every day on the tragic war in El Salvador as it unfolded during his time there, often appearing on the front pages of national papers such as the New York Times. Joe selected accounts from these stories for the book, combined with his previously unpublished personal memories and insider stories of a war journalist. He covered the war from 1979 - 1986, and spent 15 years in the region.


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Joe Frazier grew up in Eugene, Oregon and after returning from a tour with the Marines in Vietnam, completed his studies at the University of Oregon. He was named Central America Correspondent by the Associated Press in 1982 and submitted wire stories nearly every day on the tragic war in El Salvador as it unfolded during his time there, often appearing on the front pages of national papers such a...


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