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Families fleeing the violence of Honduras. Mexican reporters covering gang conflict in Juarez. Children living off the refuse of a landfill. Informed by grief and anger and told in varied and distinctive voices, A Different Kind of War: Uneasy Encounters in Mexico and Central America offers a sensitive exploration of men and women connected by courage, resilience, and the need for human connection in the face of uncommon adversity.


Donovan’s Bookshelf

San Diego Union Tribune

Interview with Chris Hedges/On Contact


“This collection of essays by J. Malcolm Garcia is a must-read for those who want to better understand the plight of common people victimized by the hardships of life outside and inside the belly of the beast. Being a visiting journalist in these “foreign” places, especially in Mexico and Central America, often comes with risks for the idealistic reporter: violence and death. These omnipresent threats don’t stop Garcia from shining light on the daily struggles of these honorable and resilient people.”

––ÁlvaroHuerta, author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm and Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond.

“These engaging essays reveal J. Malcolm Garcia’s keen eye which is always in play, his observances cinematic; the absence of children on a main thoroughfare, cats asleep in a stairwell, a woman selling cigarettes, and the feet of police officers moving past a basement window. All the potent minutia of daily life in a country under duress. This collection illustrates that while one writer cannot save the world and all its woes, he can write about those individuals risking their own well-being to help others, and in turn make a difference in all our lives by chronicling their stories of compassion, mercy and fortitude as Garcia so lyrically does in A Different Kind of War.”

––Tina Schumann, editor,  Two-Countries: U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents, and author of Requiem, A Patrimony of Fugues.

“I was riveted by these tales of mean streets and lost souls, just as I was inspired by the portraits of those brave people who face down despair every day, and persevere. It is these glimmers of life and faith that make J. Malcolm Garcia’s beautifully written dispatches from Central America sing.”

––Daniel Alarcón, author of At Night We Walk in Circles, Lost City Radio and The King Is Always Above the People.

“J. Malcolm Garcia’s A Different Kind of War: Uneasy Encounters in Mexico and Central America is anything, but an easy read. Why? Because he writes about people and places no one really cares about: orphans with swollen melon heads; abused children whose parents earn a dollar a day sifting metal and glass out of putrid garbage dumps; prostitutes selling themselves in fetid rooms for five dollars a pop to feed their children one hundred miles away; and so much more. Garcia is a selfless, often poetic, writer who records the heroics of nuns, priests and school teachers who feel a calling to work with the downtrodden. In many ways, A Different Kind of War is an update of Luis Alberto Urrea’s powerful1993 book Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border, but what one discovers is that life has become even more precarious for the poor in Guatemala and Mexico. Read this book if you dare.”

––David Unger, author of Life in the Damn Tropics, The Price of Escape and The Mastermind, among other Guatemala-based novels.

“J. Malcolm Garcia’s courageous, unflinching collection of stories is a compelling portrait of the realities in Central America and Mexico from which most of the asylum seekers arriving at our border are fleeing. The lives of everyday people and activists are told with sensitivity, curiosity, and compassion, and the teller is present just enough to maintain perspective on the told. Garcia’s narration is rife with all the urgency and painful details they merit. This book effectively connects the people to their struggles, to the complexity of their realities, and in so doing, pushes powerfully against the tide of dehumanization and othering.” 

–– Katherine Silver, author of Echo Under Story, is an award-winning literary translator of Julio Cortázar, César Aira, Juan Carlos Onetti among other writers and does volunteer interpreting for asylum seekers.

"[T]here’s a writer named J. Malcolm Garcia who continually astounds me with his energy and empathy. He writes powerful and lyrical nonfiction from Afghanistan, from Buenos Aires, from Mississippi, all of it urgent and provocative. I’ve been following him wherever he goes."

—Dave Eggers

About the Author

As a social worker, J. Malcolm Garcia worked with homeless people in San Francisco for fourteen years before he made the jump into journalism. He is a recipient of the Studs Terkel Prize for writing about the working classes and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism.