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I picked up Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo on an impulse in April, so I didn’t realise it was a novel in verse until I started reading it. I am not a big fan of poetry and usually avoid it, so I was a bit apprehensive when I started. But from the very first page, the book blew my mind. I didn’t realise poetry could be written like this.
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.
Elizabeth Acevedo, explores a lot of sensitive and important topics via poetry in this beautiful coming of age YA contemporary. Issues like the restrictions religion places on a young girl, body shaming, mental abuse, sexuality and so much more is handled adeptly by the author. They are all given the attention and gravity they deserve but at the same time refrains from being preachy.
What amazes me most, is how the entire book with all these complex topics, raw feelings and chaotic emotions of a teen girl on the path of self discovery, was so passionately and beautifully portrayed in verse.
The various complex relationships explored in the book, especially that of the mother and daughter, as well as the rich cultural subtexts adds another beautiful layer to this already stunning book.
This was such a compelling, page turner that I finished the entire book in a day in one sitting. I have seen people talking about how poems have brought them to tears but this is the first time I am experiencing it for myself.
I wish I had a book like this to guide me through my teen years when I was overwhelmed with so many conflicting emotions. Highly, highly recommended for teens as well as adults. Don’t miss out on this gem of a book.
About the Author
ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance poetry experience, Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Cave Canem Fellow, CantoMundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X is her debut novel. She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.