Book Banter: Together with Solito

Holly Spinelli, March 2023

As the winter weather races to join us in these last official weeks of the season, I find myself retreating from social activities and spending more time with books. I cozied up with a few different texts, but Javier Zamora’s Solito: A Memoir became my companion. His story nudged me to reconsider the essence of solitude.

Zamora shares the intimate, gripping details of his journey as a nine-year-old crossing borderlands from El Salvador to the United States over several weeks in the spring of 1999.

Zamora’s innocence, courage, and hope pulls readers closer to him and to the others across space and time with whom he shares this intense experience. His sincerity gently grabs readers’ hands and invites us all to walk beside him with each turn of the page.

His story, especially the last 15 or so pages, is one of the most powerful I’ve ever read, literally. His words stay with me, even when I think I am alone. I hear them on my early morning run. They sit with me as I write the week’s lesson plans. Somehow, I feel connected to others who have read Zamora’s story, too; Solito creates unspoken community among us, even in our perceived solitude.

I can’t thank Zamora enough for sharing his experience, and for using his story to amplify the countless voices that echo in the cover of the night along our nation’s borderlands. Reading Solito, walking with Zamora’s words, connects us all across distances we share alone, in a quiet community.

Holly Spinelli is an advocate for equality through anti-racist, anti-bias, and anti-oppressive facilitation within and beyond the classroom. She is a 2011 Alice Trillin Teaching Award For Social Justice Work in New York Classrooms recipient. Holly continues to cultivate community-inspired work as an English teacher at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley, New York, and as an adjunct instructor in the English Department at SUNY Orange County Community College. She is an Academy for Teachers fellow, an NCTE Open Educational Resources Fellow, and she served two terms as a member of the National Council of Teachers of English Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. Follow her on Twitter: @HolSpinny

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