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Courage and Resilience

In his inspiring memoir, Solito, Javier Zamora tells the story of his migration from El Salvador to the United States at the age of nine. The young child demonstrates astounding courage and resilience as he encounters terrifying dangers and life-threatening conditions. Solito provides an immediate and intimate account not only of a near-impossible journey, but also of the miraculous kindness and love delivered at the most unexpected moments. - Adapted From Penguin Random House


   How might you define Courage? How might you define Resilience?


Scroll through to review some quotes from Solito

One day,you’ll take a trip. Like an adventure. 

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.3

¡Two days! I start screaming. Spinning. Jumping up and down. Repeating. “¡I’m going to see my parents! ¡I’m going to see my parents!” Tears running down my cheeks. I don’t care that The Baker’s children look at me. ¡I’m so happy! Finally, the thing I want most is happening.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.36

I see Grandpa...his hand still waving. My face pressed against the back window’s glass. I concentrate on Grandpa’s light-brown hand waving. Grandpa is getting smaller and smaller as the bus rattles forward. He becomes a cloud. A marble. A hand. A fingernail. A white dot. I take a breath in. Adios, I whisper to myself.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.73

Grandpa isn’t here to talk to me before falling asleep, to go out for walks and explore the town, and because of that I feel alone, lonely, solo, solito, solito de verdad.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.74

I hold the boat with both hands. Bump, bump, bump, the waves bigger as the crash against the front. It is hard to hold on… I grab the people next to us. A shirt, pants, anything.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.87

The boats, the soldiers, the walk, the flying fish, the beach, the trucks, the shower, the three minutes.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.133

I realize I’ve never slept on the second floor. ¿What will happen if the earth shakes? ¿If there’s a fire? I don’t ask. I’m embarrassed I said my thoughts out loud.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.137

I close my eyes and pray we cross La Línea as fast as possible, that we jump the fence and rus so fast no one can catch us, especially the bad gringos. I pray my parents are waiting for me right after I jump. I want Mom’s arms, I pray she hugs me, kisses me, and that Dad throws me in the air like I’ve heard he used to do every afternoon when he’d come home from his fishing boat.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.174

They're making me nervous. I don't want to get caught. I don't want bad thoughts.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.204

I whisper for Cadejo and Diosito to help us get to Tucson soon.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.216

This book is for them and for every immigrant who has crossed, who has tried to, who is crossing right now, and who will keep trying.

Javier Zamora, Solito, p.381

 Discussion questions
Reading a narrative through the perspective of a nine year old may be a new experience for many readers. How did you respond to this approach? What questions or emotions or sensations did it raise for you? What did it allow that may not have been possible if framed through an adult’s perspective? Reflecting on your observations of Javier, what activities, attitudes, or mindsets led to his survival throughout the harrowing journey? What brings Javier comfort, support, or strength? How would you characterize the growth and change in Javier throughout the book?

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Research & Writing: Dig Deeper

Letter to a character

Solito is full of inspiring and courageous characters and individuals. Did you feel particularly moved or inspired by any of them? Consider composing a letter to one of the people portrayed in the text. Draw from the text to give examples of what struck you and how the work has shifted your thinking or impacted you in some way. Consider what questions you’d ask the character if you were able to meet them. Consider what you might like to share with the character.



Javier shows remarkable resilience throughout his journey. He adopts a number of creative coping strategies. Think of a character (from a book, movie, myth etc.) who faces a monumental challenge. What tools and strategies do they use to survive and perhaps even thrive? How does the experience transform them? What about their experience inspires you?


Research El Salvador

Dig deeper into information about Zamora's home country El Salvador to consider how the country's history and culture impacted Zamora, his family, and other Salvadorians.

What can you learn about the El Salvadoran civil war?

What factors influenced El Salvadoran migration to the United States?

Try searching the University Libraries One Search or begin with some research starters below.

Research Starter: El Salvador

CIA Factbook: El Salvador

Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture: El Salvador

World Bank El Salvador

World Bank Photos

Research Starter: Salvadoran Civil War

Research Starter: Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front

El Salvador commemorates 25 years of peace

Truth Commission: El Salvador

When we were young there was a war


Finding Meaning: Courage & Resilience

Free write how you would define the concept of Courage.

Next, brainstorm as many synonyms of courage as you are able.

Free write how you would define the concept of Resilience.

Next, brainstorm as many synonyms of resilience as you are able.


Now, explore the history, etymology, of each term by searching the Oxford English Dictionary.

Go to the fact sheet tab and navigate to etymology; navigate to frequency:

  • What is the earliest known use?
  • What language is it derived from?
  • What do you notice about the frequency of use?


Learn more about reading an OED record (2:05-8:16).

Historical thesaurus: Courage

Historical thesaurus: Resilience



Scholarly investigations

Explore some databases for Psychology and Sociology. What kinds of questions are scholars asking about the term courage? What kinds of questions are scholars asking about the term resilience? If you were to write a research paper on one of these concepts, what might your research question be? What sub-topic or refined focus of this large concept peaks your curiosity the most? Consider searching with some of the synonyms you discovered in the previous activity as well?


Sociology Collection


Scholarly and Popular Sources

Scholarly sources are typically written by experts in a field or area of study. The intended audience is other experts, scholars, and researchers. These works are characterized by specific formats, language, and structures. Popular sources may cover similar topics but tend to be targeted to a broader audience. In this activity, you will compare and contrast sample academic and sample popular sources, in order to consider when it might be appropriate to use a scholarly source rather than a popular source, and vice versa.

Explore this pair of articles. The popular source references the scholarly source. Do you think the authors accurately summarize the content? What do you notice is different about the two sources (style, tone, citation practices, structure, readability, etc.)? What do you notice about the authors?

Popular source: Four Ways Social Support Makes You More Resilient

Scholarly source: Varieties of Resilience in MIDUS


Popular source: Courage for Students

Scholarly source: Distinctions between general and personal courage