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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Solito: A Memoir by Javier Zamora

Zamora's memoir of his grueling journey from El Salvador to the United States without family at age nine keeps the reader within each immediate, breathless, uncomfortable, fear-filled moment through and to the unknown.

Solito is one of my book club's reads for this spring, and I'm listening to it as an audiobook.

In Solito, the poet Javier Zamora shares the story of his grueling journey from El Salvador to the United States at age nine.

His loving grandfather shakily sends him off on a planned two-week trip through Central America and Mexico to meet up with his parents. The trip lasts seven weeks and involves challenge after challenge.

Solito includes hired "coyotes" with dubious experience and intentions; groups of fellow journeyers who betray, bond, or simply disappear; hours and days of desperate thirst and hunger; brushes with death; the hollowing, youthful loneliness of being away from family--and the bursts of danger of guns and detention centers as well as the constant underlying pressure of remembering to keep up ongoing deceptions to avoid them.

Zamora keeps us in his nine-year-old perspective, which also serves to keep us focused on moment-by-moment sensations and concerns and makes the memoir feel immediate and breathless. Physical discomfort (he is tired, cold, hot, burned, thirsty, hungry), emotional turmoil (he feels loneliness, fear, concern, disconnectedness), and yearning (he is desperate for trust, for assurances, for safety and security, for reunification) are at the forefront.

Zamora takes us through what often feels like his literal step-by-step journey, without summarizing or skipping over impactful moments of need and want and despair. Yet he doesn't mine the difficult situation in an effort to build drama; his account feels honest and without emotional manipulation.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

You might also like the books I listed on the Greedy Reading List Six Fascinating Books about the Immigrant Experience.


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