By Ryanne Slagiel
“They’re smoking. Laughing. None of them saw Coyote get mad at me. Not even Chino. I’m alone.”
“Solito” by Salvadoran poet and activist Javier Zamora, is a compelling New York Times bestselling memoir, detailing the story of the author at nine years old as he makes his way across the borders of both Mexico and America. He travels primarily with a group he names “The Six,” and forms unique, realistic connections with each of them; from Patricia and Carla, who he treats as his temporary family, to Marcelo, who he is wary and scared of, but finds glimmers of humanity in.
With a childlike perspective, “Solito” captures incredible details of the journey, from observing the “chairs that are arranged around a table next to chips, batteries, cigarettes, liquor bottles, bread, bleach, soaps, toothbrushes, and phone cards, neatly stored in cupboards on the wall” to comments such as “I look at her big brown eyes. She lets out a smile. Her hair is braided like it always is for these trips.”
More than anything, “Solito” is a story about connections and about family. Nearly everybody in The Six is a stranger to Zamora when he first begins his journey, but treats him, for the most part, with compassion and love. They only want what is best for him, despite his own perceptions. The narrator struggles to feel as though he is a real part of the group, but he is and always was. He feels alone, but truly, he has people to lean back on; a sentiment we can all understand.
The most captivating thing about this novel, in my opinion, is the lens in which we are subject to view the world. Some of the more intricate details of the work behind the journey may be lost, being through a nine-year-old perspective, but through that, we gain an arguably more powerful view what matters; the real events, as they were viewed, that happened to Zamora as a child.
On Sept. 30, a reading celebration for “Solito” will be held on the North Quad from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This event is in collaboration with the county, and thus is open to the public. The celebration will come to a head with an author talk from Javier Zamora himself at 2 p.m. The day will also include other faculty lectures, as well as several organizations tabling at the event. I’m excited to be in attendance on Saturday!
For more information, please visit the Campus Reading Celebration website.