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Book Rec: Solito by Javier Zamora

Updated: Jul 6

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.” 


While traveling through South America, a friend recommended Solito book. Told through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy, the story shows the nitty-gritty hardships of immigrants trying to (illegally) cross the border. The book uses a good amount of Spanish, which helped me brush up on the language while traveling in Latin America but may be difficult for non-Spanish speakers. The pacing is a little slow and repetitive, but I can see the fear and anguish of this little boy on such a traumatic journey, unable to tie his shoes and scared to pee around others.  


Solito Book Summary

book jacket - a young boy stands in outline with the desert

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.


Discussion Guide for Solito

  1. What did you learn through Javier’s experience? What surprised or shocked you?

  2. The journey wasn’t just physically taxing, but mentally too. Discuss all the information Javi had to memorize – from Mexican cities to political faces – and why might he have had to pretend he is Mexican?

  3. Nature plays its own character in the novel. Discuss how the desert scenes take on a life of their own.

  4. How much did you know about the U.S. immigration system before reading Solito? Did your view on the issue change?

  5. What could you or your community do to welcome immigrant families into your lives?



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