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.
“Pero, tú no eres fácil.”
You sure ain’t an easy one.”
Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X
¡Mira muchacha (Look girl) — your book kept me up until 1:30am! Pero (but), I’m not complaining because it was sooo worth losing a few hours of sleep. This magnificent poetry book is a SLAM dunk!! The Poet X evoked so many emotions and memories of my childhood and (very) Dominican upbringing. Acevedo is a master of words and I am in awe of how her poems have profoundly touched my soul. I found so many similarities and aha moments in the book. To start, my momma did not play! She was just as strict and religious (Pentecostal) as Xiomara’s mother. Also, my brother and I were not allowed to speak any English at home because she wanted us to be able to communicate and understand family members who did not speak Ingles (like my dad and grandparents). Just like Xiomara, we had to go to church every Sunday and it was an all-day event. Likewise, I was absolutely not allowed any boyfriends (not that this stopped me from having them). And though The Poet X was not around when I was a teen, boy am I glad it’s here now. My 15-year-old self and young daughters cannot thank Acevedo enough for this stunning work of literature. Oh, and don’t even get me started on how beautiful the cover is. I love this book and it is now a top favorite and one I will read again and again (pa que sepa).
My youngest daughter and I had the honor of meeting Liz.