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Solito: A Memoir (Hardcover)
***Finalist for the 2023 Chautauqua Prize***
September 2022 Indie Next List
“Man, what a brave and brilliant memoir. It’s hard to imagine what Javiercito endured in his quest to be reunited with his parents, not to mention the mental and physical journey north to La USA. I’ll be putting this in readers’ hands for a long time. Essential.”
— Javier Ramirez, Exile in Bookville, Chicago, IL
New York Times Bestseller • Read With Jenna Book Club Pick as seen on Today • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiography • Winner of the American Library Association Alex Award
A young poet tells the inspiring story of his migration from El Salvador to the United States at the age of nine in this “gripping memoir” (NPR) of bravery, hope, and finding family.
Finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction • One of the New York Public Library’s Ten Best Books of the Year
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and the PEN/Open Book Award
“I read Solito with my heart in my throat and did not burst into tears until the last sentence. What a person, what a writer, what a book.”—Emma Straub
“A riveting tale of perseverance and the lengths humans will go to help each other in times of struggle.”—Dave Eggers
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Vulture, She Reads, Kirkus Reviews
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 Zamora’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 amid a group of strangers and a “coyote” hired to lead them to safety, Javier expects his trip 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 provides an immediate and intimate account not only of a treacherous and near-impossible journey, but also of the miraculous kindness and love delivered at the most unexpected moments. Solito is Javier Zamora’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.
“A gripping memoir… Solito is special for many reasons, but the main one is Zamora’s voice and the energy of his vivid retelling of his journey . . . And that makes it required reading.”—Gabino Iglesias, NPR
“Zamora . . . recounts in absorbing detail the dangerous, weekslong journey he took from El Salvador to reunite with his parents in the United States when he was just 9.”—The New York Times
“The magic of this book lies not only in the beguiling voice of young Javier, or the harrowing journey and immense bravery of the migrants, or in the built-in hero’s journey of this narrative. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that this book hasn’t always been with us. How can something so essential and fundamental to the American story not already be part of our canon?”—San Francisco Chronicle
“An important, beautiful work.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Zamora’s [Solito] is a distinctly American memoir, and he tells a distinctly American story.”—The Nation
“A monumental accomplishment.”—Oprah Daily
“Crafted with stunning intimacy . . . you’ll feel so close to the boy [Zamora] was then that you’ll think about him long after the book is done. It’s impossible not to feel both immersed in and changed by this extraordinary book.”—Los Angeles Times
“Solito is a stone-cold masterpiece, an absolute masterpiece. I know I used that word twice. That’s how you know I mean it.”—Emma Straub
“A riveting tale of perseverance and the lengths humans will go to help each other in times of struggle. With [Solito], Javier Zamora arrives to the forefront of essential American voices.”—Dave Eggers
“What Javier Zamora has accomplished in Solito feels miraculous. This is a pitch-perfect recapturing of the voice, consciousness, and emotions of [Zamora’s] nine-year-old self.”—Francisco Goldman
“An instant classic. . . Javier Zamora has elevated the ‘child migrant story’ to new literary heights.”—Jose Antonio Vargas
“A new landmark in the literature of migration, and in nonfiction writ large.”—Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River
“In luminous prose . . . with tenderness and searing honesty Zamora writes, for the first time, a Salvadoran account of 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
“Solito is a revelation.”—Daniel Alarcón
“[A] beautifully wrought work that renders the migrant experience into a vivid, immediately accessible portrayal.”—Kirkus Review (starred review)
“A stirring portrait of the power of human connection . . . an immensely moving story.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)