Solito, by Javier Zamora
Transcending the politics of migration
Memoirs with Melissa shares bimonthly reviews intended to expose readers to diverse authors and life experiences. To see more of what I’m reading, browse my virtual memoir shelf on Goodreads.
Every once in a while, I find a memoir that showcases literary writing and engaging plot in equal measure. Solito, by poet Javier Zamora, tells the story of a nine-year-old boy migrating from El Salvador to the United States. Protected by nothing more than the kindness of strangers, he travels thousands of miles away from the grandparents who raised him in hopes of finding his parents, who were forced to flee due to the Salvadoran Civil War.
Zamora first told pieces of his story in Unaccompanied, a book of poetry published in 2017. Despite winning awards for his work, it wasn’t enough to carry the emotional toll of his childhood trauma. Through intense therapy and revisiting journals from his youth, Solito, his story in memoir, was born.
His process paid off in an immersive recounting of sounds, smells, tastes, and vivid details. Once I reached the desert with his childhood self and got halfway through a treacherous boat ride that showed up in my dreams, I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
Once I reached the desert with his childhood self and got halfway through a treacherous boat ride that showed up in my dreams, I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
Zamora writes as the nine-year-old self who experienced that harrowing journey more than two decades ago. His prose is present tense and from a child’s point of view. The result is riveting—an engaging read that transcends the politics of migration and testifies to the human experience of child survivors.
The company of three fellow migrants sees him through 9 weeks of intense stressors, from extreme heat, cold, and thirst to the everyday concerns of a 9-year-old child with bodily functions and feelings of awkwardness. In part, Zamora wrote the book in hopes his companions Chino, Patricia, and her daughter Carla would see and receive his thanks.
In the meantime, Zamora has bragging rights. He’s the first Salvadoran to make The New York Times Best Seller list. Read his book, or listen to the audio version narrated by himself, and you’ll see why. Once you’re finished, dive into a more in-depth discussion over at Lupita Reads.
Want this Memoir?
Consider purchasing from Femme Fire Books or your local independent bookstore. You can also read more from this author on his website at www.javierzamora.net/.
Come to My JaxbyJax Last Sunday Session
On Sunday, February 26 at noon, I’m co-hosting a Last Sunday Sessions writing workshop with my friend and mentor Tricia Booker for the JaxbyJax Literary Arts community. Our one-hour session will introduce the literary art of memoir, explore options for narrative structure, and share resources for refining your craft. A writing circle and open mic will follow.
Join us for this free event in person or via livestream:
Reserve an in-person spot here.
Cork Art Studios
2689 Rosselle Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204)
Watch the livestream here.
Sunday, February 26
Noon - 3pm
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