Mary Ann Key Book Club

A collaboration with columnist Myron Medcalf, the Mary Ann Key Book Club uses reading as a catalyst for conversation as we attempt to better understand past and current injustices – including systemic racism, other forms of discrimination, and bias that affects marginalized communities.

Current selection

Solito: A Memoir

by Javier Zamora

About the book

9-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.

This book is also available in Spanish.


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.

Registration required.

Media partner: Star Tribune. Sponsor: Friends of the Hennepin County Library.

Mary Ann Key Book Club Discussion - A Conversation with Javier Zamora

Tuesday, May 23, 6:30 p.m.
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.

Register to attend in-person.

Register to attend online.

This event will also be livestreamed and recorded.

Media partner: Star Tribune. Sponsor: Friends of the Hennepin County Library.


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About the book club

The book club was inspired by a Star Tribune column written by Myron Medcalf – the great-great-great-grandson of Mary Ann Key.

“I’m honored to partner with Hennepin County Library to launch the Mary Ann Key Book Club, named after the matriarch of my family, who was a slave in Georgia in the 1850s. Purchased for $1,000 at the age of 14, Mary Ann Key persevered. Her body was in bondage, but slavery never stole the freedom of her heart, mind and soul. This book club is about focusing on the truths of the past, our challenges in the present and the possibilities of the future…” – Myron Medcalf

This program is supported by Friends of the Hennepin County Library. Their generous financial support is helping to provide greater access to print and eBook copies of the featured books.