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Book Title: Unaccompanied|
The author of the book: Javier Zamora
Edition: Copper Canyon Press
Date of issue: September 12th 2017
ISBN 13: 9781556595110
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 12.76 MB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1701 times
Reader ratings: 4.9
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Zamora’s first full-length poetry collection arrives at a very crucial moment for our country. The wall depicted on the cover reflects both our president’s words and what separates a young boy from his parents. The material appears to be heavily autobiographical, or biographical about his other family members. This gives US readers, who may be unfamiliar with El Salvador’s brutal war, an introduction to how that country has been torn apart and affected across time.
Immigration, both its causes and effects, is the big theme here. The narrator, a Salvadorian immigrant to the US at 9 years old, is neither fully here nor there: “I’ll never be a citizen. I’ll never / scrub clothes with pumice stones over the big cement tub / under the almond trees” (“To Abuelita Neli” 3). There are numerous poems dedicated to the act of border crossing, and each is powerful in different ways. “Let Me Try Again” is sampled on the back cover, and speaks to how many people, including those in law enforcement, have family members who have (or will) attempt a border crossing into the US: “He must’ve remembered his family / over the border, / or the border coming over them, / because he drove us to the border / and told us / next time, rest at least five days, / don’t trust anyone calling themselves coyotes, / bring more tortillas, sardines, Alhambra. / He knew we would try again / and again / like everyone does” (62).
We get a variety of perspectives from different members of a family (a young boy, his parents at different ages, as well as his extended family). El Salvador’s war looms large, as the shadow it has cast stretches across generations and borders. Military violence, and how to live with family members who inflicted that violence, is an on-going question: “He’s chased us / to this country that trained him to stay quiet / when ‘his boss’ put prisoners in black bags, / then pushed them from the truck, ‘for everyone to see / what happens to bad people here’” (“Nocturne” 70); “My mother, then nine years old, found María in the public latrines” (“For Isreal and María de los Ángeles” 34).
The big gem is “June 10, 1999,” which closes the book. It’s a 12-page poem that kind of sums up all the poems that have come before. Like any life-changing event, especially those coming at a young age, the narrator cannot entirely get over, move past, his border-crossing experience.
In terms of theme, Zamora really hits the nail on the head. We get a ton of different angles on immigration. I also love the incorporation of Roque Dalton’s verses as intertitles—hopefully this will draw further attention to that very deserving poet from the last century.
However, there is a ton of overlap, in terms of content, between poems. Many of the same events appear several times throughout the book. I can understand gives us a new understanding of these events, but I also would have enjoyed learning about some new material. What I am trying to say is that, politically, this book is 5-star. Poetically, I’d say it’s more of a 4-star.
This is only Zamora’s first book though, and he is quite young. I really look forward to seeing what he releases in the upcoming years.
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