The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (2018)

Wow. This is such a powerful verse novel, and while it is a Young Adult (YA) book, I’d recommend it to any adults because the writing is that good. So good that I read it in a day. downloadThe main character, Xiomara, daughter of Dominican immigrants (as is the author), is starting her sophomore year in high school. She’s trying to find her identity in her Harlem neighborhood, in her school, and in her family–where she constantly clashes with her ultra-Catholic mother and can never match up to her perfect twin brother. But Xiomara is a writer, and on the pages of her leather notebook, she pens her thoughts and her frustrations in powerful images. And ultimately, she joins the slam poetry club at school, though she has to do so in secret because her mother would never allow it. Page after page, I was stopped in my tracks with her word choice, her comparisons, her rhythm. In describing her mother’s office cleaning job, she writes:

“She works at sweeping, and mopping,/ emptying trash bins, and being invisible”. (11)

And later she writes of her high school:

“So I walk through metal detectors, and turn my pockets out/and greet security guards by name, and am one of hundreds/who every day are sifted like flour through the door” (35).

I’m sure I’ll reread this novel several more times as I pick out examples of moves the author makes and why they work so well. But also because it’s such a joy to read.

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