The Poet X
By: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publication Date: March 26th, 2018
A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Good morning, lovely readers! You gaze upon the second guest post by our one and only school-librarian-in-training, Britt. She’s joining me this June in highlighting #ownvoices stories–if you like her work, let us know!
Elizabeth Acevedo uses verse to tell the poignant story of Xiomara, a Latinx teenage from a devot Catholic family. Xiomara’s development is at the center of this story, the verse illustrating the tensions that come with coming of age. Acevedo’s storytelling is authentic and compelling (thank you #ownvoices), largely because she allows the reader to see and feel through Xiomara’s eyes. The end result is an impactful story and believable characters that you will root for.
Part of the story’s impact is in its simplicity. This isn’t a large production of how one girl defeats the wrongs of systemic racism or discrimination. The focus of the story is Xiomara’s tension with her family’s Catholic beliefs and the subsequent rocky relationship with her mother. It’s a coming of age story that many adolescents will be able to identify with. This doesn’t make it predictable or boring, instead Acevedo crafts images and writes scenes that pack an emotional punch to the reader throughout the book. So often diverse books focus on the civil rights era or slavery, but our teenagers need stories that reflect their lives now. Xiomara struggles like so many Latinx teenagers do, and Acevedo gives them a story worth telling.
Acevedo’s characters are perfectly flawed and human. Xiomara thinks and talks like a teenager because Acevedo doesn’t push an adult persona on her. Where Xiomara is bold her twin brother is more lowkey, a touchstone for Xiomara. Their relationship is gentle where the rest of the family dynamic is rocky. Friends and family vie for Xiomara’s attention and through her verse Xiomara navigates the different expectations, her character flourishing through her words.
Love is also a requisite of most coming of age stories and Acevedo does not disappoint. Forbidden love and lust pepper the pages of the book, emulating the fickle nature of first love. It’s a love that doesn’t consume Xiomara, but instead helps her to grow in confidence. It’s easy for love plots to take over the characters, but in The Poet X they thrive and become better people.
A story of self-discovery and confidence, Xiomara’s story will resonate with adolescents and adults alike. With the skill of a poet and the expertise of a storyteller, Acevedo blends verse with narrative in her debut novel. This gem of a story will quite possibly leave you teary eyed at the end (I certainly cried in public when I finished this book). The Poet X is a refreshing break from the white-washed stories of contemporary YA. Acevedo has gifted up with a powerful coming-of-age story for Latinx readers, as well as others.
Brittany is a librarian-in-training with a focus on school librarianship. In her spare time she is an avid collector of books, cats and cat-like people. Favorite reads include the Lunar Chronicles, Strange the Dreamer, Children of Blood and Bone and anything V.E. Schwab writes. She can usually be found haunting the youth section of the local library, or taking the aforementioned cats on walks (it’s very impressive).
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.