As an attorney who has worked for over 15 years on behalf of unaccompanied children who arrive in the United States on their own, I never read books or watch movies about immigration when I’m not working. That may be surprising since I’m passionate about advocating for the rights and well-being of these uniquely vulnerable children. But I’ve learned that this complex issue takes a toll on my emotional well-being, and I can easily become overwhelmed without these boundaries.
Then, a colleague sent me a new book called Solito, poet Javier Zamora’s memoir about his journey from El Salvador to the United States as an unaccompanied child. So, last Saturday morning, I woke up, put on a pot of coffee, and with a bit of trepidation, opened the book.
Solito was not what I expected. Instead of a sad tale of violence, despair, and heartache, it was a beautiful and detailed description from a 9-year-old child’s point of view about leaving a loving home and the anticipation of finally being back in his parents’ arms. It is filled with love, hope, and honesty. And because it was a memoir of a child, and not a tome about what is often just reduced to a political rhetoric, I was able to enjoy it in ways I didn’t expect.
I ended up being able take off my “work hat” and read it simply as a mother to a child the same age as Javier when he made the trip. I was able to read it just as a curious American wondering how a kid can actually make it here on their own. I read it as a person who lived in Central America the year Javier made his journey and relished in the memories of the beautiful sights and smells of Central America that came flooding back to me reading his description of his home.