Book review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I was so taken by Elizabeth Acevedo’s lyrical Clap When You Land that I sought out her debut verse novel, The Poet X.

I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.

The Poet X is fifteen year old Dominican girl Xiomara’s diary. The story documents her experiences growing up in Harlem with conservative, religious parents, her transition into puberty, her rage, and her discovery of a love of poetry.

My parents probably wanted a girl who would sit in the pews wearing pretty florals and a soft smile. They got combat boots and a mouth silent until it’s sharp as an island machete.

Xiomara is a loud, large, ferocious, opinionated young woman who fights with her fists and struggles with her body, her religious upbringing and her relationship with the world. She exists in stark contrast to her gentle brother, Twin who is coming to terms with being gay. Her fiercely religious Mami presents challenges to both her children who don’t fit her mould.

My brother was born a soft whistle: quiet, barely stirring the air, a gentle sound. But I was born all the hurricane he needed to lift – and drop- those that hurt him to the ground.

Poet X is a story about ordinary life written in an extraordinary way – a bold, poetic, humorous, sensory delight.

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