Once again, 2022 comes through with an engaging piece of nonfiction. Solito by Javier Zamora chronicles the author's journey at the tender age of nine from El Salvador to the U.S, where he was to be reunited with his parents. The 'trip' as it was always described to him is long, hard, dangerous, and full of uncertainty.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a memoir that takes place almost entirely within the weeks between April 20 and June 10 of 1999. During this time, young Javier made the 3,000 mile journey from his small town in El Salvador to the U.S, where he would reunite with his parents. He was nine years old, and entirely alone, except for the group of strangers that were also making their journey for their own reasons, to be reunited with their own loved ones. Using nearly every mode of transportation, Javier will make a trip that was supposed to take only two weeks. But there are setbacks and countless dangers, and the fear and uncertainty about what happens next only grows as the weeks go on. With both English and Spanish used for the dialogue, Zamora tells of his experience with the utmost attention to detail, giving readers access to memories that many may never forget.
My Verdict: For those readers that are looking for a memorable journey, and also for a detailed, first-person account of the often difficult trek across the U.S. and Mexico border, this is absolutely for them. The fact that Zamora is only nine years-old when he is sent off to make this trip alone is enough to astound or even impress many people. I can only vaguely recall what I was like at nine years old (my memory has never been the best), but I am fairly certain that something like this would have broken me. Many times throughout the book, young Javier worries that he is being a nuisance to the adults in the group, or that he is annoying the older kids. It is an understandable concern, but it is eventually buried in the magnitude of everything else that is going on. It is the kind of story that is hard to believe, but it did happen, and Zamora relays it well with specifics and honesty, and the kind of observations and thoughts that only a small and vulnerable child would have.
Favorite Moment: At one point, it is determined that it is easier for Javier to pretend to be part of a family with three other travelers. It does not take long for the young boy to realize that this new and made up family is actually quite real, despite the fake papers that declare it to be true.
Recommended Reading: I recommend The Man Who Could Move Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras.