The Poet X Book Review is a testimony to Elizabeth Acevedo’s love for poetry and story-telling as she uses the format of ‘slam poetry’ beautifully.
By Medha Setia | Opening Doorz Editorial | June 09, 2021
Book Review: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
The Essence: The Poet X is an incredible testimony to Elizabeth Acevedo’s love for poetry and story-telling as she uses the format of ‘slam poetry’ beautifully, painting vibrant images in the minds of the readers with her play with words. Every teenager can relate to Xiomara’s frustration over her parents’ tight reins on her activities and her longing for her own space and to discover who she truly is. This is a beautiful and splendid debut novel and should be a must-read in every teenager’s book list.
The Poet X Book Review
In Elizabeth’s Acevedo’s powerful debut novel The Poet X, she brings to life the coming-to-age story of a rebellious 15-year-old teenager, Xiomara, who carves a path away from her family’s stoicism towards a career in poetry. This story is narrated in the form of a verse (series of short poems) creating a first-hand account of Xiomara’s pent-up emotions and stress as she struggles to find her voice at home and the outside world. Xiomara is a poet in hiding; she writes in her journal discreetly, away from the eyes of her austere parents.
Xiomara means ‘one who is ready to war’. She was born a fighter, feet first, fists waving ready to fight in this dog-eat-dog world. A fire burns inside her, ready to deal with anything that upsets her with her fists. She stands against the bullies who dare to trouble her twin brother. She never allows anybody to mistreat her nor is she willing to let anyone take charge of her life or decisions.
A significant portion of the story is about Xiomara’s endeavour to break open the rigid boxes and expectations set for her by her family. Throughout her life, she is told that she is a blessing from God. Mami (Xiomara’s mother) never wanted to marry—her dream was to become a nun devoting her life to the creator and protector of the world. Unfortunately, she was forced to marry Papi (Xiomara’s father) as a business deal, and move to the United States, swaying her away from the life she yearned for.
When being a miracle can be a burden
Since Mami’s desires remain unfulfilled, she desires to live her dreams through Xiomara and this is where their relationship becomes contentious. Being a miracle is one of the ways she feels burdened as she has to constantly strive to earn the right to exist and repay her debt to God. Both Xiomara and her twin brother, Xavier, whom she calls “Twin,” struggle to hide their true selves in their tiny home in Harlem from her strict, fundamentalist Christian mother.
Xiomara grows up spending most of her time in the church. Later on, she finds religion far less meaningful. She feels that her religion is teaching her to bottle her voice and desires instead of expanding her knowledge and giving her a new perspective of life. She has innumerable questions and doubts regarding faith and believes that she is not ready to be confirmed as she considers her relationship with her religion to still be developing.
Everyone looks at the tough, tall, and curvy figure of Xiomara, but no one truly understands her except Aman. He is Xiomara’s lab partner in biology class who eventually develops feelings towards Xiomara. The common interest in music is the thread that strings them together. The common interest in music is the thread that strings them together. Aman recognizes her passion for poetry and helps her come out of her shell. He listens to her poetry, making her believe that her words and her thoughts also matter. As their surreptitious relationship develops they create an understanding for each other.
Challenging a strict upbringing
Not long into her school term, Xiomara’s English teacher invites her to join the Spoken Word Poetry Club. She sees the potential in her and believes that Xiomara could blossom under her guidance and help her compete in the local slam competitions. Even though being a part of this club means she has to miss the Catholic Confirmation classes that her regimented mother has forced upon her, she decides to take the chance by disobeying her mother and following what her heart desires. This turns out to be a borderline spiritual experience of Xiomara as she learns to speak her emotions through her poems. She transforms from a timid little no-one to a bold warrior!
A storm is unleashed when Xiomara’s musings are no longer private and are discovered by her mother. When Mami ultimately finds out Xiomara’s secret, her candid journal, she is outraged not only at her daughter’s disobedience and defiance but also furious about what she has been writing in her poems, culminating in her mother setting the journal on fire.
In search of solace
This series of actions compel Xiomara to leave her home in search of solace. Xiomara realizes that she and her mother have to come to a mutual understanding, thus, leading her to seek help from their Pastor, Fr Sean, to help fix their relationship. Since Xiomara knows how much religion and God means to her mother, she accepts Fr Sean’s assistance in mending their strained relation. Although Xiomara’s mom does not deem her past actions forgivable, however, both are ready to move forward in life and create a stronger bond.
The Poet X is an incredible testimony to Elizabeth Acevedo’s love for poetry and story-telling as she uses the format of ‘slam poetry’ beautifully, painting vibrant images in the minds of the readers with her play with words. Every teenager can relate to Xiomara’s frustration over her parents’ tight reins on her activities and her longing for her own space and to discover who she truly is.
This is a beautiful and splendid debut novel and should be a must-read in every teenager’s book list.
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