BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS with Sue Giustino

Solito: A Memoir by Javier Zamora

Solito is a gripping account of young Javier Zamora’s three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, to join his parents across the U.S. border. For four years he’s lived with his grandparents while his parents worked to make a life for them in the US. Always missing his mother, Javier eagerly awaited his ninth birthday, which was the youngest a child could be to make the journey. Leaving his loving grandparents and aunt behind in El Salvador, he traveled with a hired “coyote”, alone amid a group of strangers, his expected two-week journey turns into a two-month grueling adventure.

Through his own words, Javier tells of the unimaginable obstacles that he must endure and overcome while relying on his determination to be reunited with his parents. Perilous boat trips, desert crossings filled with numerous environmental dangers, guns, being arrest, and deception among the travelers that threatens their survival are among the situations he has to face–alone. Although, his fellow travelers do look after him when they can, and eventually a woman and her daughter take him under their protection and become a surrogate family; one that Javier comes to cherish.

Javier’s will to be reunited with his parents keeps him strong during this near-impossible journey; a trek that so many have felt they’ve had no choice but to make. This vivid, energetic memoir is a gripping, intimate and heartfelt account in Zamora’s own voice, providing a glimpse of the desperate endurance of these travelers. Through his words, the reader feels his excitement, fear, anxiety, regret, appreciation, and love. It’s a view into a world that most will never know, and possibly never really understand.

Javier Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador in 1990. When he was a year old, his father fled El Salvador due to the US-funded Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992). His mother followed her husband’s footsteps in 1995 when Javier was about to turn five. Zamora was left at the care of his grandparents who helped raise him until he migrated to the US when he was nine. His first poetry collection, Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, September 2017), explores some of these themes.

Zamora was a 2018-2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University and holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University (Olive B. O’Connor), MacDowell, Macondo, the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation (Ruth Lilly)Stanford University (Stegner), and Yaddo. He is the recipient of a 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowshipthe 2017 Narrative Prize, and the 2016 Barnes & Noble Writer for Writers Award for his work in the Undocupoets Campaign.

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I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season and a Peaceful New Year! Thanks for Reading, Sue.