The Chills at Will Podcast podcast

Episode 158 with Javier Zamora, Poet, Compassionate Activist, and Master Craftsman and Purveyor of an Arresting Childlike POV and Creator of the Stunningly-Good and Moving Memoir, Solito

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Episode 158 Notes and Links to Javier Zamora’s Work 


   On Episode 158 of The Chills at Will Podcast, Pete welcomes Javier Zamora, and the two discuss, among other things, his early love of learning and influences in his native Él Salvador, the effects of his family members on his world view, the accolades that have come with his writing and his original and continuing goals for his work, his memoir and his light and masterful touch with a young kid’s POV, the ways in which traumas and bonding and love were intertwined in his journey to the US, and how writing the book brought him to a greater understanding of the vagaries of human behavior and his own behaviors.


   Javier Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador, in 1990. At the age of nine he migrated to the United States to be reunited with his parents. Zamora holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied and taught in June Jordan's Poetry for the People; and an MFA from New York University. He is the recipient of scholarships to Bread Loaf, Frost Place, Napa Valley, Squaw Valley, and VONA Writer's Conferences; and fellowships from CantoMundo and Colgate University where he is the Olive B. O'Connor fellow. His poems also appear in Best New Poets 2013, Indiana Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, Theatre Under My Skin (Kalina Press: El Salvador), and elsewhere. Zamora has had his work recognized with a Meridian Editor's Prize, CONSEQUENCE Poetry Prize, and the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Contest.e enjoys hiking, camping, and is just getting into backpacking.


Buy Solito


Javier Zamora's Website


The New York Times Book Review of Solito


September 2022 from The Los Angeles Times: “At 9, Javier Zamora walked 4,000 miles to the U.S. At 29, he was ready to tell the story”

At about 7:30, Pete asks the important question: Does Salvadoran Spanish have the best groseria? 


At about 8:10, Javier responds to Pete’s questions about his use of Spanish/Spanglish, and Salvadoran-specific words and his rationale/process in using the words 


At about 11:50, Pete asks Javier about the awards and acclaim he has received and how it registers compared to the experience of sharing this personal story with the world


At about 14:45, Javier talks about pressures-external and internal-that have weighed him down and how therapy and healing through writing have lifted much of these pressures 


At about 19:20, Javier speaks to Pete’s question about the writers who have inspired and thrilled and challenged him; Javier mentions the outsized encouragement provided by Roberto Lovato


At about 21:00, Javier cites the huge influences of June Jordan and Roque Dalton 


At about 22:25, Pete asks Javier about his early relationship with the written word, and he mentions his grandfather’s and parents’ educational and political backgrounds and how they shaped his reading  


At about 27:05, Javier traces his fairly-circuitous route to becoming a writer, including the impact of Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries


At about 28:55, Javier responds to Pete’s question about how the Bay Area’s ethic has shaped him


At about 30: 10, Javier discusses the teaching of Salvadoran history in Él Salvador and how he was guided by this 


At about 31:00, Javier and Pete highlight Immortal Technique and Rage Against the Machine as educational and radical musicians and inspirations


At about 32:10, Pete asks Javier about the meanings of the book’s title, and Javier focuses on the three main parts/time periods of him being ”solito”


At about 34:20, Pete wonders about Javier’s individual story and how it compares to, and was inspired by, more recent migrations of Salvadorans and Central Americans, particularly minors, and how journalism has erred in covering the 


At about 39:30, Pete reads the epigraphs and Javier expands upon their importance and connections to the book


At about 41:00, Javier puts forth interesting ideas about the use of the word “immigrant” and suggests a possible substitute


At about 43:00, Javier expands upon ideas of the natural affinity that people (Americans, for one) have for children, and connections to the American immigration system  


At about 44:30, Pete, stunned at the masterful ways in which Javier uses the POV of 9 yr old him, asks Javier how he managed to pull it off, and Javier talks about how his traumas have affected his growth


At about 47:10, Pete outlines the book’s beginnings before Javier goes to the US


At about 48:00, Javier discusses the importance of his bonding time with his grandfather right before he headed North; he highlights The Body Keeps the Score and how he saw his ACES Index.


At about 51:00, Javier explains the Cadejo and its significance for him


At about 52:40, Javier recounts the tortuous boat trip that is depicted in the book and describes the overwhelming fear


At about 54:55, Javier talks about the “Big Four” (formerly the “Big Six” the people who become bonded for life with Javier and ideas of “surviving” as manifested by different people on Javier’s journey


At about 58:30, Pete cites examples of charity depicted in the memoir and Pete compliments Javier’s humanizing his characters; Javier responds with his views of the coyotes and the ways in which the border “world of 1999 that [he] described is different than now”


At about 1:01:20, Pete asks Javier if his stated goal for the writing of the book has been accomplished 


At about 1:03:00, Javier talks about his involvement with Undocupoets, and how the writing world deals with issues of citizenship


At about 1:05:55, Javier describes his upcoming project 


At about 1:06:45, Loca the Cat makes an appearance!


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   Please tune in for Episode 159 with Amanda Korz, whose poetry witnesses previous versions of herself and intimately digs into mental illness, disability, and witchcraft. Her poetry collection, It’s Just a Little Blood.

   The episode will air on December 27.


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