Book Title: The Poet X
Book Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publishing Date: March 6th, 2018
Synopsis: 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.
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Words can not describe how The Poet X made me feel. It took the breath right out of me. My heart was beating like a drum. I felt heaviness in my chest, but also felt like I was flying. Even now that I’ve finished reading, I’m left with an emotional weight in my heart.
How did this amazing, beautiful author manage to capture such power and raw emotion with so few words? How have I never found the beauty of a story told through verse before? This book was everything! It was beauty. It was power. It was a sensational Own Voices story, and it was incredibly poignant, moving and thought provoking!
Xiomora was fierce! She was strong, and she fought. She fought through her questioning faith, she fought for her independence, she fought for her freedom of expression, and she fought for herself! She was brave and intelligent, and she was beautiful!
Though I never really grew up embracing, or being taught, my Mexican culture, I know my mother and her sisters and brother did. You could say I didn’t have much I could relate to with Xiomora, except for the expression of herself through her poetry, but, I did feel like I could still relate to her home, and neighborhood life, slightly in knowing that my mom’s family was raised Catholic and knowing what kind of neighborhood she grew up in (and had to walk home from school through) where my grandfather and the neighborhood gang members had a mutual respect and understanding with each other. I also remember being taken to church (and completing communion) as a child because it was what grandma had wanted.
And, though there was still very little I could personally relate to with the story (I could very much relate to writing poetry to express my feelings, as it was an outlet for me during a bout of depression in high school), or see as a reflection of my own life, I realized how important it was that there are readers out there who could. This story was so powerful, and it really showed how important it is to have Own Voices representation.
I had both my mom and my aunt read this book recently, and it resonated with them on such a personal level. They both felt like they could relate to Xia. They both were reminded of their mother, my grandmother, with how strict and religious Xia’s mother was, and they both were reminded of the neighborhood they grew up in. Discussing the book and their feelings about it with them really brought me closer to the story, and to them.
The Poet X was a coming of age story. It was a story of self-discovery, self-love, and the importance of family, friendship, and standing up for those you love. It highlighted issues of rape culture, body acceptance, abuse, forced religion, and homophobia. It was powerful, beautiful, and poetic.
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