on March 6, 2018
Genres: YA Contemporary
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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.
Here is the actual bookmix that Elizabeth Acevedo herself created for her book!
When I heard the voice of Elizabeth Acevedo yell out, “Pero tu no eres facil,” (Translation: “You sure ain’t an easy one.”) I was immediately hooked! I had the amazing opportunity of meeting the real powerhouse known as Elizabeth Acevedo and as soon as I heard her read an excerpt of her book I ran out to get myself a copy for her to sign!
Poet X is so original because it’s essentially a whole story from beginning to end only it’s written in poems and it’s not just your typical poetry it’s slam poetry! For those of you that aren’t familiar with slam poetry, it’s basically a personal and emotional kind of poem that describes the struggle that someone is facing. Many times, slam poetry describes urban life and is associated with a hip-hop vibe. Even though I bought a copy of The Poet X I found the audible version a million times more gripping than the physical copy because the poet herself Elizabeth Acevedo narrates the story! Hearing Ms. Acevedo narrate the story was such an intense experience and it made me think back through the struggles and growing pains that I experienced in high school. Even though society tends to undermine the struggles that teenagers girls go through Acevedo GETS IT and she tells the story of Xiomara Batista who is Dominican (Latina representation woop woop!) and tells the story with such a raw honesty that it’s almost heartbreaking to read.
Xiomara Batista lives in Harlem, New York City and she is a girl that struggles with her identity. She is trying to figure out her place in the world and she is constantly feeling the pressure from her family, her friends, society, boys, and even the men around her. This is a girl who is very self-conscious because her body has developed faster than most girls and is uncomfortable when grown men begin to notice her and high school boys grope her and call her a slut. She lives with a very strict religious family and her mother is always controlling her every move. Xiomara also meets a boy she develops a major crush on in Bio class named Aman.
Xiomara is someone who feels alone. She feels that no one understands her and that no one hears her. Until Xiomara finds herself channeling her frustration and struggles through her writing and figures out that she has a true passion for slam poetry. Only this is a gift that she hides from her family until she gets the opportunity to be a part of the Slam Poetry club in her school and she needs to make a decision if she should hide in her room with her slam poetry or share it with the world?
Pop Culture References
This book totally gave me the Michelle Rodriguez vibes back when she made the movie Girlfight! There were a lot of parallels to Xiomara and the main character of Girlfight! They both are latina, they both had that tough girl persona who didn’t feel understood, and then found themselves with something that they loved! It’s uncanny! What do you guys think?
Catfairy’s Final Thoughts
“Burn it! Burn it. This is where the poem are”, I say, thumping a fist against my chest. “Will you burn me? Will you burn me, too?”
Usually, I am not someone that gravitates to poetry but this book grabbed me and I am so glad that meeting Elizabeth Acevedo convinced me to give this book a try!
There are so many topics in this book that are so relatable and at times controversial when she touches on the topic of her religious upbringing. There is a line in this book that I love.
“What’s the point of God giving me life
if I can’t live it as my own?”
– Elizabeth Acevedo
These are such beautiful and honest questions, that I find myself often asking. I believe in God but I am not someone that believes in organized religion and growing up as a girl who had to do my communion because it made my Great Grandma happy, I always questioned the teachings of the Bible. I believe no matter what we believe in we should always ask questions and dig deeper for the answers. It was so refreshing to read about a character that pushed the envelope and always asked questions even if they were uncomfortable.
I also loved the bond between Xiomara and her brother who she affectionally nicknamesTwin! It has been awhile since I have read a YA book with such a strong brother and sister relationship and it was so touching to see how protective and loving Xiomara was towards her brother. Throughout the book, there are some struggles that the brother will face and it makes Xiomara and Twin’s relationship even stronger in the end.
“Every time I think about Aman poems build inside me like I’ve been
gifted a box of metaphor Legos that I stack and stack and stack.”
Being a big contemporary romance girl, one of my favorite parts was seeing the bond that develops between Xiomara and her crush in Bio named Aman. There is a poem where Elizabeth describes them listening to the same song together and sharing the headphones and as I read it I could just feel the sparks/hormones flying high! The relationship between both of them was intense and powerful that it just popped out of the page! I read and listened to the poems with Xiomara and Aman and I just felt the hunger and longing of this crush.
Of course, the Latina representation is what gravitated me towards this book! She describes her Dominican upbringing with such humor and eloquence. I love how she talks about the social expectations for her as a Latina and how she struggles to meet them. As a Latina, I struggle with these expectations such as being told that I have to be a perfect housewife who cooks, cleans, dances salsa, and breeds babies at the same time!
Honestly, I cannot rave about Elizabeth Acevedo more! I hope to read more of her books in the future. Her slam poetry was so powerful and brutally honest. Acevedo’s words perfectly describe the pain and beauty of growing up!
Let me know in the comments below if you have read any poetry lately and if you plan on reading Elizabeth Acevedo’s book!