The southern border has long been popular terrain for novelists and beat reporters looking to make a name. But here, with Solito, Zamora makes the subject feel fresh with a shift of perspective: This account is told from the point of view of Chepito, Zamora’s 9-year-old self. Zamora writes in such a way that you never forget that this harrowing journey is being experienced by a child ... In telling this story from a child’s perspective, describing his surroundings with plainness, presenting his survival without bluster, he reveals the true horrors of migration. Of course, there are limitations to experiencing this journey from a child’s point of view. One is that children don’t know why things are happening. This drawback is most obvious when Zamora describes adults whose motivations and behaviors are not immediately clear ... Solito is an important, beautiful work. Zamora treks through his own memories and nightmares, revisiting a childhood that was lost. His account reads like a reporter’s notebook; everything is described meticulously so that it can be remembered. Zamora writes like someone who cannot afford to forget ... Solito proves that giving a poet an opportunity to turn his eye to nonfiction is a gamble that clearly pays off.
... an important book that refocuses the immigration debate by writing about — and from the perspective of — the most important aspect of it: the people who leave home behind and risk everything to look for a better life in the United States ... As touching as it is sad, and as full of hope and kindness as it is harrowing, Solito is the kind of narrative that manages to bring a huge debate down to a very personal space, bridging the gap between the unique and the universal in ways that make both look like one and the same ... this chronicle is packed with the elements readers have come to expect from migration narratives. But Zamora's voice, sense of humor, and heart make this a standout story about survival and the pursuit of the American Dream ... special for many reasons, but the main one is Zamora's voice and the energy of his vivid retelling of his journey ... While the events could have easily lead Zamora to write about the pains and dangers of undocumented migration or the way awful immigration policies have created a dangerous system, a lot of the focus is placed on the humanity and people he encountered on his journey ... Zamora treads the interstitial space between languages with grace, humor, and style ... Keeping some words, curse words, and diminutives in Spanish as well as using the language without otherizing it via the use of italics, Zamora manages to bring some of the flavor and rhythm of his native tongue to the page while simultaneously allowing context to deliver all the information monolingual readers need to understand the story ... a gripping memoir that doesn't shy away from the bad while shining a light on the good. It is also a moving narrative that belongs solely to Zamora but that also offers yet another look at what millions of others go through in pursuit of a better life. And that makes it required reading at a time when immigration is seen as a political talking point instead of as something that affects many lives in very profound ways.
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...The magic comes from the deep humanity with which Zamora tells the story...It is not romantic; no one is an angel or a superhero...No one is pure evil...These are flawed and complicated people caught in a flawed and complicated system that compels them to leave their countries and then punishes them for doing so...And while 'Solito' has nothing overtly political to say about this deeply politicized subject, it feels like the beating heart at the very center of all the noise.