You Might Like This Book If You…
- Enjoy YA coming of age books,
- Struggled with fitting into religious expectations as a teenager,
- Clashed with your immigrant parents over cultural differences as an American teenager,
- Love slam poetry
Xiomara Batista doesn’t quite yet know who she is, and she needs the space to figure that out. Her Dominican parents, especially her Miami, have strict expectations for how she should behave and what she should believe. But Xiomara isn’t sure that’s for her. In this poetic narrative, Xiomara explores her beliefs, her sexuality, her talents, and her place in this world.
My friend and I came from vastly different backgrounds, yet each of us felt a strong connection to Xiomara. My friend identified with the way Xiomara’s sexuality was treated as a curse; I experienced the arguments, anger, and confusion that come with finding an identity outside of my parents’ culture. Elizabeth Acevedo captures the struggles of a teenage girl and child of immigrants perfectly.
If I explain too much of the story, I think the magic of Acevedo’s storytelling will be lost. It’ll feel too much like an average teen angst story. And if I share what made this stand out, I may spoil some parts of the book. So here’s what I’ll say: Acevedo found the voice of the teenage girl and put it into poetry.
Rather than demonize the adults in Xiomara’s life, Acevedo presents a story that seeks connection and understanding after conflict. As a high school teacher and a formerly terrible adolescent, I’ve seen how much disagreements with parents about identity can break a teenager’s spirit and relationship with her family. I appreciate stories that could possibly help my students navigate through such struggles without losing hope.
I had already listened to Acevedo’s narration of Pride when I started this book. I love her voice, but I remember wanting to see the way the words lay on the page when she read the poetry in Pride. For that reason, and because I wanted to save some money, I chose to borrow the e-book of The Poet X through my library. I do not recommend the e-book. At least not to read on your phone. The line breaks were not fully honored on my phone’s screen, which completely defeated the point. I think I may listen to the audiobook at some point to appreciate the book as a piece of slam poetry.
Overall, this was a quick and powerful read. Teachers, before you assign or recommend this book to students, be aware that Xiomara is curious about her sexuality. There’s at least one chapter/poem where she explores it, and many areas where she reflects on what it’s like to be a curvy girl who is sexualized for her looks. If you’re OK with that, The Poet X is a marvelous read!