The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The story follows Xiomara, who develops a passion for spoken word poetry. Her mother is extremely religious, near the point of fanaticism, and won’t allow Xiomara to perform it or date a boy that Xiomara is growing closer with.
Dealing with this is even more complicated by the fact that Xiomara’s twin brother is also falling in love, with someone their mother would hate far more than Xiomara’s crush.
Young adult, contemporary
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.
Like The Black Flamingo, this is a story written in verse. I personally quite like the style. It lends a feeling like we’re inside the character’s mind, listening to all their thoughts and emotions, rather than just seeing events happen.
This was a very good exploration of the struggles of becoming your own person. Xiomara loves her mom, but her mom’s behavior is smothering her and she can’t escape because she lives with her. The way in which we can love people who harm us is heartbreaking, and it was interesting to see it explored how Xiomara tries to keep a relationship with her mom while doing what she needs to develop her identity.
This book was incredibly sad at moments but also has an overall uplifting message.