Last night I had the pleasure to be with my son Theo at City Arts and Lectures listening to Javier Zamora, author of "Unaccompanied," being interviewed by Courtney Martin.
Who is Javier Zamora, and why is it essential to read his book? Javier Zamora is a wonderful Salvadorian author who grew up in the Bay Area, was part of the 826 Valencia program, and was a 2018-2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University and holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University (Olive B. O'Connor), MacDowell, Macondo, the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation (Ruth Lilly), Stanford University (Stegner), and Yaddo. He is the recipient of a 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowship, the 2017 Narrative Prize.
I am always reading, so when I learned about the book "Unaccompanied" thanks to the New York Times, I got it to support a fellow Latino immigrant. That night I opened the book to get the tone of the writing. I hesitated to read about a sad topic. Also, in my ignorance, I thought I knew much about immigration. Javier Zamora retells his own story when at nine years old, he was sent alone, with a coyote, to go from El Salvador to the USA to be reunited with his parents. The journey was supposed to last two weeks, but the coyote abandoned him and the group. They were left to die. It took nine weeks. A trip that almost cost his life.
Why should you read the book? All the information we get about Unaccompanied immigrant children is through excellent journalists that, in Zamora words: "try to make us empathize with the unthinkable horrors the families and children have to endure". Their death in custody breaks our hearts, as it should. However, again paraphrasing Zamora: "little we know about who they are inside, how they feel and see the world or the greatness they are capable of."
The book is so beautiful, waving the story with a delicate hand. I cried, laughed, and reflected a lot during this powerful reading. I also learned a lot about Central American culture. Then, after meeting Javier last night, a lot of new reflections, understanding, and questions came to me, especially about the support and guidance the immigrant children, all our children, desperately need to cope.
I hope you enjoy this reading as much as I did.
Have a wonderful weekend!