The Poet X
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.
Poet X stands for Xiomoara’s name. And she is amazing!
In an autobiographical way, she tells her coming of age story in poetic verse. Her family emigrated from the Dominican Republic and they live in Harlem, NY. X’s mother is a very devout Christian and raises her children to be good and to obey. Their second home is the church and Christian community they belong to. Father Sean knows X’s family and her siblings all her life.
X begins to tell her story of her childhood and families’ circumstances at the beginning of the book. We learn of her close relationship to her brother and her days in school. From there, she goes on to her intimate thoughts of becoming a teenager and young woman.
Her brother “Twin”, she’s always just called him that, knows X well and gives her special notebooks to write her most intimate thoughts in. As X is growing up she is experiencing some tensions with her mother about faith, and boys, and love…and these notebooks are her way of expressing her emotions about her world.
Ms. Galiano, one of her teachers in school picks up on X’s writing talent. She invites her to join the poetry club, and X will begin to skip her Confirmation classes to become part of the club. This will end up being the saving grace as the tensions with her mother keep raising….until she finds out.
X has fallen for a boy in her Bio class. I mean…really fallen. And he is the nicest guy too. But as much as she struggles with her family’s views and strict upbringing, she rebels in her writing. She is coming of age, has desires and questions she knows she will never be allowed to explore to find answers.
Will Twin’s notebooks be able to contain all these raging emotions?
Will Ms. Galiano be the wind in her sails she needs to excel and immerse into poetry?
Or will her mother come around and realize her daughter’s needs?
This book is all that and then some. One of the best contemporary coming of age poetry I have read. I loved the format, I loved the powerful voice and verses…very relatable. An earnest portrait of the struggles growing up when old views and new ones clash in today’s time.
I can’t say anything negative about it. It packs a punch, is eloquent and powerful. The 361 pages read quickly, so no excuse not to read it. Enjoy!