Mary Ann Key Book Club: Season 5 Announcement

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March 4, 2023

The Mary Ann Key Book Club has returned! We're excited to announce the title for our fifth season: “Solito: A Memoir” by Javier Zamora.


Message from Myron Medcalf

Portrait of Myron Medcalf

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a boy, searching for the answers in adolescence that all children seek, while also making a 3,000-mile journey to a new place to be with his family in the United States.

In “Solito,” Javier Zamora tells a story that’s familiar to immigrant communities throughout this country and the world. To rejoin those he loves, he must leave other bonds behind in this book that details Zamora’s journey from El Salvador to the United States, where he hopes he’ll find his mother and father. 

We picked this book as we continue the legacy of Mary Ann Key, my enslaved great-great-great grandmother. I created this book club to make her and others like her more visible. And “Solito” is a memoir about a courageous young man who asks to be seen and heard – and protected. But it’s also a tale about a wide-eyed boy who must make incredible decisions in a harrowing trek. 

Zamora’s poetic style makes this a captivating read and relatable to those who make the same choices every day to capture a better, safer life, but only after eluding danger. We look forward to reading this book, our fifth selection, with the Mary Ann Key Book Club.


About the book and author

Solito book cover

Nine-year-old Javier's adventure is a three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border. He will leave behind his beloved aunt and grandparents to reunite with a mother who left four years ago and a father he barely remembers. Traveling alone except for a group of strangers and a "coyote" hired to lead them to safety, Javier's trip is supposed 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 a group of strangers who will come to encircle him like an unexpected family. “Solito” is Javier's story, but it's also the story of millions of others who had no choice but to leave home.

Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador in 1990. His father fled the country when he was one, and his mother when he was about to turn five. Both parents’ migrations were caused by the U.S.-funded Salvadoran Civil War. When he was nine Javier migrated through Guatemala, Mexico, and the Sonoran Desert. His debut poetry collection, Unaccompanied, explores the impact of the war and immigration on his family. Zamora has been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard and holds fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.


How to participate

The Mary Ann Key Book Club invites you to engage in ways that best fit your time and interests. You can participate in several different ways:

  • Read or listen to the book. You can borrow or download one from the library. The book is also available in Spanish.
  • Talk about the book with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
  • Join a library program; details are available at
  • Lead a book discussion in your community.
  • Share your feedback, reflections, or questions with us by email: Responses and questions may be shared with Myron Medcalf and library staff, and quotes may be anonymized and shared with readers through our newsletter.



Mary Ann Key Book Club – A Community Discussion of “Solito”

Thursday, May 18, 7 p.m.

Join columnist Myron Medcalf and Latino/Latinx community leaders Fernanda Acosta, Susana De Leon, Teresa Ortiz and Francisco Segovia in an online conversation. Panelists will discuss “Solito: A Memoir” by Javier Zamora and how themes from the book are reflected in our community, writing as healing, and action steps for a more equitable future. Media partner: Star Tribune. Sponsor: Friends of the Hennepin County Library.

Registration is required.


Mary Ann Key Book Club – A Conversation With Javier Zamora

Tuesday, May 23, 6:30 p.m at Minneapolis Central Library, Pohlad Hall

Join the Mary Ann Key Book Club for an exclusive evening featuring Javier Zamora, award-winning author of “Solito.” The author will be joined in conversation by Star Tribune columnist and book club partner Myron Medcalf. The conversation will conclude with a Q&A session with participants and a book signing with the author. Media partner: Star Tribune. Sponsor: Friends of the Hennepin County Library.

Register to attend in-person.

(This event will also be livestreamed and recorded. Register to attend online.)


Resources for reading, listening, and learning


Can't miss upcoming Library events

TESTIFY: Americana from Slavery to Today (Exhibit and Events)

Minneapolis Central Library, now through March 29.

Building on the success of the original exhibit in 2018, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and NFL Hall of Famer Alan Page and his daughter Georgi, the director of the Diane and Alan Page Collection, are again presenting their exhibit of Americana from slavery to today – with renewed calls to action.

Visit the exhibit anytime; registration is required for events and programs.


Writer to Writer: Carlyle Brown and David Grant

Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 6:30-8 p.m. (Zoom)

Join playwrights and screenwriters Carlyle Brown and David Grant in an online conversation about how they see Black artists in theater and film doing powerful and necessary work that responds to our current socio-political moment – not just here, but around the world. Collaborator: More Than a Single Story.

Registration is required.

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