A young poet tells the unforgettable story of his harrowing migration from El Salvador to the United States at the age of nine in this moving, page-turning memoir hailed as “the mythic journey of our era” (Sandra Cisneros)
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.”
Javier’s adventure is a three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border. He will leave behind his beloved aunt and grandparents to reunite with a mother who left four years ago and a father he barely remembers. Traveling alone except for a group of strangers and a “coyote” hired to lead them to safety, Javier’s trip is supposed to last two short weeks.
At nine years old, all Javier can imagine is rushing into his parents’ arms, snuggling in bed between them, and living under the same roof again. He cannot foresee the perilous boat trips, relentless desert treks, pointed guns, arrests and deceptions that await him; nor can he know that those two weeks will expand into two life-altering months alongside fellow migrants who will come to encircle him like an unexpected family.
A memoir as gripping as it is moving, Solito not only provides an immediate and intimate account of a treacherous and near-impossible journey, but also the miraculous kindness and love delivered at the most unexpected moments. Solito is Javier’s story, but it’s also the story of millions of others who had no choice but to leave home.
About the Author
Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador in 1990. His father fled the country when he was one, and his mother when he was about to turn five. Both parents’ migrations were caused by the U.S.-funded Salvadoran Civil War. When he was nine Javier migrated through Guatemala, Mexico, and the Sonoran Desert. His debut poetry collection, Unaccompanied, explores the impact of the war and immigration on his family. Zamora has been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard and holds fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.
“Perhaps only a poet could invoke the fear and beauty of a migrant’s voyage. A witness who lived the story is essential to gain credibility. A child is necessary to summon compassion. This is the mythic journey of our era, told by a hero not old enough to tie his shoes, an oracle for our troubled times. I have waited decades for a memoir like Solito.”—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
“This is a magnificent book. Clearly written by a poet, it puts the reader viscerally through every moment of Javier Zamora’s epic journey. Every character is rendered with boundless care and love, and the result is not a book you should feel required to read but should rush to for a gorgeous, riveting tale of perseverance and the lengths humans will go to help one another in times of struggle. With this book, Zamora arrives at the forefront of essential American voices.”—Dave Eggers, author of The Circle and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
“If there’s any justice, Solito will someday be considered a classic.”—Rumaan Alam, author ofLeave the World Behind
“Javier Zamora ventures through the fog of memory to reconstruct coastlines and jungles, deserts and drop houses, vividly conjuring the humanity and resilience that marked his childhood migration. Solito is at once blistering and tender, devastating and affirming—it is, quite simply, a revelation, a new landmark in the literature of migration, and in nonfiction writ large.”—Francisco Cantú, New York Times bestselling author of The Line Becomes a River
“What Javier Zamora has accomplished in Solito feels miraculous….Through his innocent eyes it’s as if we discover human and institutional ugliness for the first time, but also kindness, perseverance, and love. What an observant, tender sense of character this little boy narrator possesses, and what a magical eye! This book fills me with wonder and awe!”—Francisco Goldman, New York Times bestselling author of Monkey Boy
“In Solito: A Memoir, Javier Zamora uncannily and brilliantly replicates his journey as a child traveling alone from El Salvador to his parents in the United States. In luminous prose, in harrowing and fierce detail, with tenderness and searing honesty he writes, for the first time, a Salvadoran account what it takes to reach the border, cross it on foot, and survive. I cannot recommend this book enough, nor overstate its accomplishment.”—Carolyn Forche, author of What You Have Heard Is True, finalist for the National Book Award
“By chronicling the journey of his nine-year-old self in beautiful, painstaking verisimilitude, Javier Zamora has elevated the ‘child migrant story’ to new literary heights.”—Jose Antonio Vargas, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, founder of Define American, and bestselling author of Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen
“A stirring portrait of the power of human connection . . . an immensely moving story.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)