Sunday, February 3, 2019

February's Book of the Month--The Poet X

February’s Book of the month is the debut novel-in-verse THE POET X, by Elizabeth Acevedo. It’s won so many awards, I’m going to skip naming them all here, but they are richly deserved.

High school sophomore Xiomara Batista is tired of being seen as “the baby fat that settled into D-cups and swinging hips/so that the boys who called me a whale in middle school/now ask me to send them pictures of myself in a thong.” And she’s tired of being Mami’s “miracle,” a ”symbol of God’s love,” who must "go to Mass every single day…until [her] knees learn the splinters of pews.”

Xiomara wants her own voice to be heard, and she's coming to realize that her way to speak up is through poetry. But even though a poster announcing Spoken Word Poetry Club "feels personal/like an engraved invitation,” poetry club is on Tuesdays, and Mami is dead set on Xiomara being at confirmation classes during that time. To make matters worse, Xiomara finds herself liking a boy—and Mami says no boyfriends until Xiomara has graduated from college. “And even then,/she got strict rules/on what kind of boy/he better be."

THE POET X is an intense look at one young woman breaking free to live an honest life of her own making—and managing to hang on to her loved ones along the way. The story explodes through the poems Acevedo has crafted, cutting right to the heart of her main character, Xiomara, whose name means “One who is ready for war.” Her “parents probably wanted a girl who would sit in the pews/wearing pretty florals and a smile./They got combat boots and a mouth silent/until it’s sharp as an island machete.”

Acevedo’s poems are so perfect, I keep quoting her—it seems I can’t write about this book unless I use her words, not mine.


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