Over 300 Women of Welcome joined together this summer to read the award-winning memoir, Soito, by Javier Zamor. The book follows nine-year-old Javier’s three-thousand-mile trip from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border. He is eager to reunite with his parents in California, but his journey to get there kept us turning the pages!
Traveling alone amid a group of strangers and a “coyote” hired to lead them to safety, Javier expects his trip to last two short weeks. He cannot foresee the perilous boat trips, relentless desert treks, pointed guns, arrests, and deceptions that await him; nor can he know that those two weeks will expand into two life-altering months alongside fellow migrants who will come to encircle him like an unexpected family.
A memoir as gripping as it is moving, Solito provides an immediate and intimate account not only of a treacherous and near-impossible journey but also of the miraculous kindness and love delivered at the most unexpected moments. Solito is Javier Zamora’s story, but it’s also the story of millions of others who had no choice but to leave home. (From Amazon)
“The story stays with you long after you complete the book. I wake up thinking about his trip.” -Nancy
“Javier’s story is repeated every day throughout Central America and Mexico. He has brought to life this reality.” -Grace
Collectively we worked through a reading guide with thought-provoking questions and turned to Women of Welcome social media channels to process what we were reading. We ended with a community conversation where thirty-six women and our team gathered to discuss what we learned. Many couldn’t describe their interaction with the book without tears, especially when talking about how the impact of families separating and making difficult decisions for their child’s safety hit them.
“Every goodbye wrecked me. Leaving his family in El Salvador, then his grandfather, and then by the time he had to separate from his found family: Chino, Patricia, and Carla, I was just sobbing. My daughter is 10, so I just kept seeing her in these dangerous and heart-shattering situations.” -Jen
As we journeyed with Javier, and discussed what impacted each of us, several key takeaways emerged. We discussed what it taught us about the difficult decisions families make to leave their homes to seek asylum in the U.S. Also our misconceptions about coyotes, the journey to the U.S., and what crossing the border is like were challenged and hearts were moved. Here are our three main takeaways in the words of our community:
1 – We should collectively be invested in the care and well-being of all children.
“I loved how Javier used the voice of a 9-year-old throughout the story. It was so much more powerful to read this story as told through a child’s eyes.” -Rebecca
“I think there is such a unique perspective reading this as a parent and seeing our children in this.” -Nicole
“The Jesus-model is to think of immigrant children as our children!”
2 – Those with power can still choose compassion.
“I was touched by the immigration officer who took tweezers and pulled out all the thorns from Patricia’s face and hands before letting them out at the Mexico border. He held all the power but exercised it with such compassion.” -Helen
“My preconception about coyotes being uncaring was challenged. Also, when they were given anti-nausea pills, I was wondering if they could trust everyone.” -Julia
“If you have power, you can use it compassionately.”
3 – We can be sensitive friends and neighbors to those who may have experienced trauma.
“I have been learning more recently about how trauma affects the brain. I am going to aim to be more compassionate with the recently arrived students I teach!” -Rebecca
“It makes me cry to think about all that they went through and they had to say goodbye!!!” -Alicia
Everyone was impacted deeply by Javier’s story and one of the things we discussed throughout reading the book was what you do with what you learned. It made such an impact on us, but now what?
The reality is there are Javiers, Patricias, Carlas, and Chinos all around us every single day. Our hope is that now we will stop and think about the immigrants living in our communities and consider their stories and what they have lived through, as well as those currently making similar harrowing journeys.
Here are a few other helpful ideas:
- Learn more about immigration (Check out our helpful book list!)
- Become better informed on trauma and its impact on the brain and like Rebecca, aim to be more compassionate.
- Enter the conversation and ask some questions (Join our Facebook group!)
- Take a step to get closer to immigrants in my own community (Let our Proximity Guide help!)
- Consider how to take action. Maybe it’s foster care for unaccompanied minors. Or court accompaniment. Visiting migrant shelters at the border or something else. Message us on Instagram to discuss ideas!
- Research organizations that provide representation for unaccompanied minors and give a financial donation. Lutheran Family Services and Bethany Christian Services both do transitional foster family care. K.I.N.D (Kids in Need of Defense) and World Relief are also great options to look into.
If you haven’t read the book, it isn’t too late! You can download the Women of Welcome reading guide and read the book on your own or with a small group of friends!
And join us on social media to share your thoughts!