Read: The Poet X
This book by Elizabeth Acevedo about a Latina teenager growing up in New York City is intensely real and moving. If you are a teenager (or used to be one!), you will recognize some of your own thoughts and struggles in her story.
[Caution: Contains themes of sexuality and drug use, and some rough language.]
What Is It About? The Poet X is a “book in verse” that tells the coming-of-age story of Xiomara Batista, a Latina teenager growing up in Harlem (a neighborhood of New York City). (A “book in verse” is a fancy name for a collection of poems that together tell a complete story.) Xiomara’s family came to the United States from the Dominican Republic when Xiomara was a little girl. Now in 10th grade, Xiomara struggles to deal with the strict cultural and religious expectations of her Dominican parents as well as the challenges of growing up and going to an inner-city high school. Like many teenagers, Xiomara feels that she doesn’t fit in the body or the life she’s been handed. What she wants to do goes against how her parents think she should behave and the teachings of their Catholic faith. Just when it all seems like too much to deal with, Xiomara discovers she has a passion and talent for poetry. She uses her writing to share her ideas and emotions with family and friends.
Why We Like It:
- The Poet X is both specific and universally relatable – The details of Xiomara’s life (her strict upbringing, family dynamics, and religious education) will be spot-on for many Hispanic teenagers, especially those with immigrant parents. At the same time, all young readers will find something to relate to. If you are a teenager (or used to be one!), you will identify with her struggles around school, self-confidence/doubt, dating, friendship, siblings, and independence — regardless of your background or identity.
- Xiomara’s Voice is really authentic – You won’t doubt for a minute that this is the voice of a real young woman. Ms. Acevedo’s writing is truly special; there are lines in her poetry that burn red hot with the truth of what it’s like to grow up and question the world around you.
- The Poet X is a masterful example of a book in verse – Some books in verse can seem clunky or gimmicky, but Ms. Acevedo’s poetry draws you in and really brings out the themes in the story.
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