Javier Zamora in conversation with Mitchell Kaplan

In this episode of Beyond the Page, recorded live at the 2023 conference, poet and memoirist Javier Zamora talks to legendary bookseller Mitchell Kaplan about his memoir SOLITO, which chronicles his experiences traveling from El Salvador to the United States, by himself, when he was 9 years old. Zamora was born in a tiny village in El Salvador in 1990 during the country’s civil war. First his father fled, the year after Zamora was born, and then his mother, when he was 5. For the next 4 years, Javier lived with his grandparents – until his family decided that the only way for him to reunite with his parents was for him to make the long, perilous trip to the US alone.

There’s a very good reason why SOLITO became a bestseller and was one of the standout books of 2022: it’s a harrowing, beautiful, heartbreaking, and important book. Told from the point of view of his 9-year-old self, Zamora’s memoir insists on the reader experiencing this journey from a child’s point of view, as, led by a paid coyote, he joins a group of adults and children who are also moving north, on a trip that is supposed to last 2 weeks, but ends up lasting almost 2 months.

Javier Zamora writes, and speaks, like someone who believes he can never afford to forget that journey, or the experience on the other side, in America, of growing up undocumented. You won’t be able to forget, either. And that is the power of great literature.