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Unaccompanied

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  611 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Zamora’s debut cradles within it a family’s risky song of longing and love for a country torn apart by war and gang violence. These poems recall and are rooted in the experiences of a nine-year-old boy traveling alone for thousands of miles and confronting everywhere the realities of borderland politics, racism, and economic injustice. Calling into question the concept of ...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Copper Canyon Press
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Candi
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
At the end of January, I finished reading American Dirt. If you want to know my thoughts on that, you’ll have to look elsewhere, because this short review is dedicated to a book of compelling poetry by Javier Zamora titled Unaccompanied. I was not done with my quest to learn more intimately about the U.S-Mexico border crisis quite yet. Not having time to squeeze in a heftier book this month, this slim collection fit the bill quite nicely. Plus, I had a hunch that poetry would elicit more of an e ...more
Ellie
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection focuses author's personal experience as a child, fleeing the violence in his home, El Salvador (much of which violence was supported by the U.S.) and coming to the U.S. to reunite with his parents who left when he was even younger. There are poems that deal directly with the hardships and terror of trying to enter a country illegally as well as the missing of his home that he is being forced to leave.

Many of the other poems are in the voice of Zamora's relatives, creating a fulle
...more
Jennifer
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don't read enough poetry to write the review that this volume deserves. Zamora's poems are raw, emotional, gutting, and quietly triumphant, and I hope to read more from him in the future. ...more
Igrowastreesgrow
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, bought
Wonderful collection of poems. I enjoyed the walk through a different life.
Sidik Fofana
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
SIX WORD REVIEW: Will kick down any wall built.
elisa
Jul 11, 2021 rated it liked it
there are some gorgeous glimmers to be found here:

All my children / learned the names of seasons / from songs. Tonight, leaves fall. / There’s no autumn here. When you mist / into tomorrow’s dawn, at the shore / of somewhere, listen to this conch. / Don’t lose me.
B. P. Rinehart
"Like tonight, when I wish you made it

easier to love you, Salvador. Make it easier
to never have to risk our lives.
" from the poem "El Salvador"


A nice book that documents one man's life in between his family's history and journey to his parents in the United States. I was anticipating this book because growing-up I was very close to a family from El Salvador. I had not had the knowledge to ask why they were in America then, but of coure now I know it was because of the Salvadoran Civil War. Many
...more
Megan Moir
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This unique book of poems was written by a man who at 9 years old, crossed the border between Mexico and the US to reunite with his parents. His home country of El Salvador was in shambles and unsafe after generations of violence. He had been living with his grandmother when he made the decision to leave and what follows is heart wrenching. His love for his home country shines through in this collection. I especially love the poems where his writes about his Estero (or estuary) with the most bea ...more
Sam
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 an
...more
Julia Li
Apr 26, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021-reads
wish i enjoyed this more, but i'll blame it on assigned reading and finals season. ...more
Nadia A
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good read by a wonderful poet. Lots of these poems are very narrative. The collection made me think of memoir. Recently I learned that Zamora was working on a novel-in-verse and I was pleased to hear that for a number of reasons. By the time I finished reading Unaccompanied, I could see why the need for a longer project is necessary. Looking forward to reading more from this writer.
Grady
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
‘Real life turned into myth and myth made real life’

Poet Javier Zamora was born in the small El Salvadoran coastal fishing town of La Herradura and immigrated to the United States at the age of nine, joining his parents in California. He earned a BA at the University of California-Berkeley and an MFA at New York University and is a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

Javier’s debut UNACCOMPANIED assesses borderland politics, race, and immigration on a profoundly personal leve
...more
Ingrid Contreras
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book that speaks to the Zamora’s experience of crossing multiple borders from El Salvador to the United States at nine years old to be reunited with his parents, Unaccompanied is a collection populated by deserts, border violence, a family’s desperate claim to survive, and the conjuring up and remembrance of a country left behind.

Javier Zamora’s Unaccompanied asks: Is fleeing from danger a crime? Is being driven by spotlights and vans into desert trees and into hiding a crime? The government s
...more
Jim
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jim by: Kelly
An astonishingly powerful book of poetry, largely speaking of the memories of growing up amid the violence of civil war in El Salvador, and the experiences of illegal immigration into the United States.

Among my favorites:
"Instructions for my Funeral"
Douse my in the cheapest gin. Whatever you do,
don't judge my home. Cut my bones
with a machete till I'm finest dust.
[Wrap my pito in panties so I dream of pisar].
Please, no priests, no crosses, no flowers.

"Disappeared" begins Hold these names respons
...more
Jonathan Tennis
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A friend suggested this collection after hearing an NPR interview. I had just read about Zamora in Poets & Writers so dropped what else I was reading to pick this up. While I loved the subject matter and his delivery, I think there are significant things I missed by not speaking Spanish (there are portions of poems in Spanish with no translation that I simply didn’t want to Google to understand what he was saying). Even with that, great collection and enjoyable read. My faves were: To Abuelita N ...more
Alanna McFall
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
2. A book written in Central America: Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora

List Progress: 29/30

Written in 2017, Javier Zamora’s collection of poetry, Unaccompanied, is speaking directly to the political situations and conversations of today. Zamora was born in El Salvador and lived there until he was 9 years old, before crossing the Mexico-US border as an undocumented immigrant and unaccompanied minor in order to meet his parents who had crossed previously. These sorts of stories and situations have be
...more
Rikki
Jun 03, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: assigned-reading
2.5 stars.
Zamora is compelling and raw, like the way rug burn feels after it's been run up against a cactus, and his awful and evocatively illustrated accounts of immigrating to the U.S., the terrible conflicts in El Salvador, and his interpersonal relationships are intimate and at times powerful. Other times, the imagery becomes overused and tired and the text is so deeply stewed in misogyny that the fourth wall is broken and I lose a lot of sympathy for him. Females (or the male-made product o
...more
Jessie (Zombie_likes_cake)
"I wasn't born here
I've always known this country wanted me dead"

"Unaccompanied" is the kind of stellar poetry collection that really shines as a whole. While there were a few pieces (which I will name at the end) that stood out a bit more for me, the real beauty is the picture that gets created when you read poem after poem after poem. Zamora lays his life bare here: young years in El Salvador, the experience of crossing the border illegally as child, being undocumented in the US, the personal
...more
David
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Powerful, enlightening, and disturbing
Ryan Miller
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m neither a poet nor a great lover of poetry. But in this age of immigration and asylum controversy, when too many people isolate others as faceless issues rather than as people, Zamora’s imagery and descriptions are heart-breaking. As a privileged, sheltered North American, I have little to no personal understanding of the war, the fear, the gangs and the violence Zamora describes from his childhood in El
Salvador. I have no personal understanding of what it took to seek safety by crossing the
...more
Luke Hillier
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Zamora's personal history is incredibly powerful and significant. As a child, he traveled through the desert unaccompanied (other than with a coyote) to follow his parents into the States to escape the danger of El Salvador. The entire collection is anchored by that experience, and I found the poems to be most compelling and resonant when they focused most explicitly on it. The entries read as fragmented memories moreso than "polished" poems, and at times I wished for more polish than we got. I ...more
Craig Werner
Poems of witness to the realities faced by children making their way to the U.S., in Zamora's case to escape the chaos of El Salvador. Most of the poems are written in a direct, near prose voice, but there are flashes of lyrical depth that suggest Zamora's going to be worth reading as he evolves. For example, from "Pump Water from the Well":

....From my forehead,
the jaw of a burro, hit on the side and scraped by a lighter to wake the song
that speaks two worlds.

I'd start with that poem, "For Isra
...more
Antonio Paola
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
More than ever, this book is a calling to our country’s newly set directives toward immigration and our country’s new, but certainly not unified, mantra, all-borders-closed policy. This not the United States I was raised in or raised to believe in!


As Javier Zamora says “I think in the United States we forget that writing and carrying the banner of ‘being a poet’ is tied into a long history of people who have literally risked [their lives] and died to write these words.”
Julie
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I loved how the author transported me into the world of his childhood and showed me both the beauty and the horror. From, "Sagura," one of my favorites:
"It was dusk for kilometers and bats in the lavender sky,
like spiders when a fly is caught, began to appear.
And there, not the promised land but barbwire and barbwire"
...more
Kristin
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A tremendous collection about borders, childhood, and the journey.
Marian P
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Unaccompanied is a slim volume of poetry written by Salvadoran poet Javier Zamora who migrated unaccompanied at age nine from La Herradura, El Salvador. This astonishing debut collection is a powerful testament to the resiliency of migrants’ journeys al Norte and also to the immense talent of Zamora. The poems cover a range of topics from his brief life in La Herradura under the care of his abuelita to his reunion with his parents in the U.S. replete with the myriad challenges wrought by living ...more
Nadine Jones
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
These are powerful poems. Sometimes I could read only one at a time, then I had to set it down so I could recover.

Politics
If you shoot hummingbirds and eat their hearts,
you can shoot anything,

their father told them
walking them to and from that forest

where for twelve years
hummingbirds fought for hibiscus.

Look, this is how I did it,
the oldest says, arms outstretched,

imagining crosshairs in his old scope.
A good sniper, an obedient son.

The young one, my father,
the student who hid

a red h
...more
sewena
Aug 26, 2021 added it
i found a copy of this book in a thrift store listed for $3; when i opened it up, it was signed. i'm not sure why it was donated to the thrift store, other than maybe this book isn't what people expect out of poetry--it doesn't declare a love for love and life, which is what some people want from their poems, nor does it wallow in grief and pain and memory, the way other people want from their poems.

sometimes when a poetry book is divided, it's obvious why it's been segmented--there's a shift in
...more
Sloane Rittner
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amazing collection of poetry by Javier Zamora, who I had the pleasure of meeting during the 2018 AWP Conference. There are some phenomenal pieces in this book; some brutally aware and full-bodied lines that hit you in the gut with a closed fist.

The themes faced involve the current political climates of the US and El Salvador, the history and scars of war, the plight of immigration, separation of family, the stripping of evolution of identity, the role home plays in self, and many more.

Here are
...more
Cindy Leighton
"I'll be back soon mijo-
but in our windows still no glass,
when raindrops hit the sill
they touch my skin like her eyes did
that morning she said
I'll be back soon mijo."

To what extent is immigration really a choice, when your homeland is filled with war and gang violence, and your children hungry? Powerful collection of poems by Zamora who immigrated to the US from El Salvador, beautifully capturing the pain of families torn apart by immigration - who can not go back and still return, who don't
...more
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Javier Zamora is a rising star in the literary world of the Americas. He was born in the small Salvadoran town of La Herradura and immigrated to the US at nine, joining his parents in California and growing up undocumented. Zamora earned his BA at UC Berkeley and his MFA at NYU, where he studied with Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, and Charles Simic. Zamora’s first chapbook, Nueve Años Inmigrantes/ ...more

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“Javier saw a dead coyote animal, which stank and had flies over it. I keep this book in an old shoebox underneath the bed. She asked in Spanish, I just smiled, didn’t tell her, no animal, I knew that man.” 0 likes
“the thin white man let us drink from a hose while pointing his shotgun. In pocho Spanish he told us si correr perros atacar.” 0 likes
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