Reviews for Solito

by Javier Zamora

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The harrowing journey of a 9-year-old Salvadoran boy through Guatemala and Mexico to rejoin his parents in the U.S.Being the child of migrants is not unusual in the small town of La Herradura, El Salvador, where Zamoras relatives regularly disappeared with the local coyote, Don Dago, to try their luck gaining entry into the U.S. When Zamora was 5, his mother left to join his father, who had left when he was 1, in America. The author opens his engaging narrative in 1999: Don Dago has agreed that the boy is ready for the trip to join his family. At the time, Zamora was living with his grandparents and aunts and excelling in school. He was overjoyed at the prospect of reuniting with his parents yet unaware of the many dangers of the arduous trek. Zamora traveled within a small, tightknit group of migrants through Guatemala, Mexico, and the Sonoran Desert. The author, now a poet who has been both a Stegner and Radcliffe fellow, meticulously re-creates his tense, traumatic journey, creating a page-turning narrative that reads like fiction. Sprinkling Spanish words and phrases throughout, Zamora fashions fully fleshed portraits of his fellow travelerse.g., a protective mother and her daughter and a variety of men who assumed leadership responsibilitiesas they navigated buses and boats, packing into a single room in motels, passing through checkpoints (not always successfully), and walking for days in the desert with little food or water. Along the way, the migrants, most of them desperately trying to reach their families in the U.S., also had to learn Mexican words and change their accents in order to remain inconspicuous and avoid the dreaded La Migra, which has helicopters. They have trucks. They have binoculars that can see in the dark. I want our own helicopter to fight against La Migra. To shoot those bad gringos making us scared.Beautifully wrought work that renders the migrant experience into a vivid, immediately accessible portrayal. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
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When Zamora was nine, he traveled from El Salvador to Guatemala and Mexico, finally crossing the border into the United States to join his parents, having not seen his mother for four years and his father since he was one. What was to have been a two-week journey lasted two harrowing months. He has since become a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard and published a debut poetry collection, Unaccompanied, that began his exploration of how war and immigration have affected his family. Here he provides a detailed memoir of his traveling "solito"—alone, but surrounded by people who became a surrogate family.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The harrowing journey of a 9-year-old Salvadoran boy through Guatemala and Mexico to rejoin his parents in the U.S. Being the child of migrants is not unusual in the small town of La Herradura, El Salvador, where Zamora’s relatives regularly disappeared with the local coyote, Don Dago, to try their luck gaining entry into the U.S. When Zamora was 5, his mother left to join his father, who had left when he was 1, in America. The author opens his engaging narrative in 1999: Don Dago has agreed that the boy is ready for the trip to join his family. At the time, Zamora was living with his grandparents and aunts and excelling in school. He was overjoyed at the prospect of reuniting with his parents yet unaware of the many dangers of the arduous trek. Zamora traveled within a small, tightknit group of migrants through Guatemala, Mexico, and the Sonoran Desert. The author, now a poet who has been both a Stegner and Radcliffe fellow, meticulously re-creates his tense, traumatic journey, creating a page-turning narrative that reads like fiction. Sprinkling Spanish words and phrases throughout, Zamora fashions fully fleshed portraits of his fellow travelers—e.g., a protective mother and her daughter and a variety of men who assumed leadership responsibilities—as they navigated buses and boats, packing into a single room in motels, passing through checkpoints (not always successfully), and walking for days in the desert with little food or water. Along the way, the migrants, most of them desperately trying to reach their families in the U.S., also had to learn Mexican words and change their accents in order to remain inconspicuous and avoid the dreaded La Migra, which “has helicopters. They have trucks. They have binoculars that can see in the dark. I want our own helicopter to fight against La Migra. To shoot those bad gringos making us scared.” Beautifully wrought work that renders the migrant experience into a vivid, immediately accessible portrayal. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Poet Zamora (Unaccompanied) presents an immensely moving story of desperation and hardship in this account of his childhood migration from El Salvador to the U.S. To reunite with his parents—who left during the Salvadoran Civil War—nine-year-old Zamora was forced to rely on the help of coyotes to get to America in 1999. But, as he relates in affecting detail, the voyage for his group was perilous and trust was a rare commodity. What was supposed to be an easy two-week trip became a two-month nightmare pocked with seedy characters, days spent locked in various hideouts before moving, and a never-ending stream of promises shattered. Between dangerous marches through the desert and being caught at the U.S. border multiple times, Zamora’s group was forced to depend on one another for survival. The surrogate family they formed offered Zamora respite from the despair, and he transforms the experience into a stirring portrait of the power of human connection. Rendering the end of their journey in a final heartbreaking scene, Zamora writes, “I can feel my heart in my stomach... I close my eyes and take a long sniff. Their sweat, the smell of loroco and masa, is faint, but it’s them.” This sheds an urgent and compassionate light on the human lives caught in an ongoing humanitarian crisis. (Sept.)

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