Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti by Gerry Hadden

Be sure to read the comments, too.

I propose that we recognize National Public Radio reporter memoirs as a sub-genre. Getting a frontline position with NPR seems to set up correspondents and anchors alike with eventual book deals. I challenge you to name a longtime NPR reporter who has not written a book about her or his efforts to gather the news. For years, I have enjoyed remembering past events and reading about the lives of reporters, such as Scott Simon, Tom Gjelten, Bob Edwards, and Michele Norris. I feel that I get to know both the world and the trusted voice better.

I do not remember Gerry Hadden, author of Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti, but he was an NPR reporter covering Latin America from 2000 to 2004. While much of his time was spent in Mexico, he flew at a moments notice to Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, and especially Haiti. He interviewed many government officials, rebels, entrepreneurs, peasants, priests, and foreign aid workers about the events that were making headlines: natural disasters, contested elections, corruption, drug cartels, and illegal aliens. When he started in 2000, much official American attention was directed at the problems of Latin America, but that changed on September 11, 2001. During his later years on the Americas beat, he filed storied stories that were often overshadowed by headlines from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reporters in turmoil-torn countries always seem to take risks and find themselves in dangerous situations. Hadden seemed to be particularly prone to getting himself positioned in the street between riot police and protesters. He also seemed inclined to follow migrant workers into the jungle were gangs waited to beat and rob them. Several times criminals were so surprised to find him stumbling into a trap for others that they just shook their heads and let him go. He must have had a guardian angel.

Mixed in with the news stories are accounts of Hadden's personal life, which some readers may doubt. Did he really see ghosts in the old house that he rented? Did he really not see the drug problems his own staff had when he was reporting on the ills of the region? Did he not consider where his love life was headed? In writing Never the Hope Itself, Hadden seems to have left nothing self-mortifying out. Readers who enjoy very confessional memoirs will be enthralled.

Hadden, Gerry. Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti. Harper Perennial, 2011. 343p. ISBN 978062020079.


Susarma said...

It's Colombia, not Columbia.

ricklibrarian said...

Thanks for the spelling help.

ghadden said...

Thanks for taking the time to read my book, Rick.

You join a handful of folks who have publicly voiced doubts about my accounts of my strange house/HQ. I don't blame you. If I were you I'd doubt it all too. The only thing I can point to, as some sort of corroborating evidence, is the fact that the NPR reporter who replaced me had similar experiences. And she talked it about quite publicly, producing a radio piece on it for Morning Edition. But as I say in the book, I am my own witness.

I don't contend there were ghosts in the house, by the way, only that many things occurred that I still cannot explain rationally. This bothered me at first; now I'm comfortable with it.

As for reporters who always seem to get themselves into dangerous situations when covering events in turmoil-torn countries, it's patently unavoidable. Unless you just stay in your hotel room. And if you were to do that you'd have a job for about 2 days.

Lazaro. You know, he wasn't staff. He was a fixer with whom I and many other reporters worked from time to time. If in the end his breakdown was drug-related - and I never gained solid proof - then he not only had me fooled. He pulled a fast one on the entire foreign press corp, and the U.S. State Dept. His symptoms were identical to post-traumatic stress disorder, and he had a spit-shined reputation as a fixer. Either way, a tragedy...

And last but not least, my love life. I did consider where it was going. All the time. But I'd be lying if I said I was in control of that ship. Luckily, it righted itself. Our third child was born this Fall. :)

It's always a pleasure to read other people's takes on my work, so thanks again for your review.

Self-mortifying yours,


ricklibrarian said...

Thanks, Gerry. I appreciate your comments and your taking the time to respond. Latin America is such an important beat. I wish we as a country were paying more attention. Thanks for being there.