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Solito: A Memoir by Javier Zamora

Solito by Javier Zamora

Genre: Memoir

Published Sept 2022; 375 pages

This is my first nonfiction of the year in my efforts to increase the volume and variety of nonfiction I read. And this was a great one to begin with - my first 5 star read of the year.

First Sentence: "La Herradura, El Salvador, March 16, 1999 - Trip. My parents started using that word about a year ago - 'one day you'll take a trip to be with us. Like an adventure. Like the one Simba goes on before he comes home.'"


The plot is simple. A 9-year old boy in El Salvador has waited years till he's old enough to make the "trip" to join his parents in the US. This is his journey. His mom left him with his grandparents and made the trek to the US to join her husband who left when Javier was only one. They called regularly and sent him gifts, but he doesn't remember much about his dad and misses his mom terribly.

Written in a daily journal style, the day of his trip finally arrives surrounded by much secrecy and rules. What was to be a two week journey to finally be reunited with his parents turned into a two month ordeal.

"The adults don't really talk to me besides 'good morning,' 'good night,' 'pass the food,' 'wake up'. And I'm too shy to talk to them, awkward, so I mostly keep to myself and stay out of their way. When the adults talk, I look at my hands. I hold them together and play with my thumbs. I don't know what to say. Who to stay close to. .... I feel like wet sand. Like mud."

Javier's trip starts with a core group of six assigned to his 'coyote'. The group grew larger and as plans had to change and delays occurred, Javier felt more and more alone. Gradually, after facing hardships no 9-year-old should have to face, and walking and running, being tired, being afraid, he began to feel like part of a new family. His traveling family. This is the truest kind of found family and the bonds forged were so strong.


Where do I begin? Bleak but uplifting, tension-filled and heartwarming. When we meet Javier as a little boy helping his grandma and wishing and hoping to see his parents, he's a happy-go-lucky kid with friends and a content life. Following him on his journey - buses, boats, walking - lots of walking, so hot he wants to pass out, so cold he's shivering, sleeping on stone floors, etc. my heart just breaks.

A touch of lightheartedness showed up as he was walking across the desert in the dark and would see shapes of plants he didn't recognize and he made a game of naming them: shaggy tree, pointy tree, etc. His creativity made me smile and remember he was just a kid.

The book is so well written, I found myself transported to his environment - worried next to him, scared of the dark next to him, hungry next to him. I had to keep reminding myself this truly is Javier's truth. The hardships and trauma he faced are real. Then I'd read another couple chapters and have to remind myself again. I hope millions of people read this story and 'feel' the story. I certainly don't have an answer to the US immigration situation, but surely it doesn't have to be this!

Challenges tagged:

Nonfiction: 1/9

Literary Escape - bonus countries: 3/51 - 5 bonus

Library Love: 9/70+

COYER 1st semester: 9 books read

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