Chelsea Mancilla, Guest Writer
I am really excited about the latest book I have found, “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo. I recently realized how infrequently I have read books with people of color (POC), such as myself, occupying the role of the protagonist. To remedy that, I started reading Acevedo’s debut novel, “The Poet X.” As a writer, Acevedo gears the story of the main character, Xiomara, towards POC. Xiomara’s experience serves as an avatar for young girls. She has been an inspiration to me, and hopefully many other readers; Xiomara reminds me what it’s like to love writing. She made me think about why writing is important to me, which is a good quality to have in your story’s protagonist.
Xiomara is the teenage daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic.
Xiomara is an aspiring poet, and is invited to join the poetry club at her high school. Unfortunately, the club meetings take place at the same time as her confirmation class, and her mother would never approve. Her mother is a zealous church-goer, and Xiomara finds that being an attractive girl she draws the wrong kind of attention, and is harshly judged by her mother. Xiomara is torn between being the person she wants to be and the person that she is expected to be. She finds some freedom in her writing, but when she meets Aman, a Biology classmate, she realizes she still feels trapped by her mother’s pious expectations. When she is caught kissing Aman, her mother calls her a “Cuero”, which is the Dominican word for ho. Around that time, Xiomara begins to question what it means for her to believe in God and Jesus, and realizes that she is not as devout as her twin brother, Xavier, or best friend, Caridad .
The novel is composed of poetry and essays written in the protagonist’s voice. Even if you do not normally enjoy poetry, this book deserves a chance. The poems are more akin to journal entries written in poetic form. They are beautiful, though not flowery, and the language is designed to be honest and organic.
Her words reveal so much emotion without being explicit, and it drives the story from beginning to end. The book itself is Xiomara’s journal. There are different styles that demonstrate Xiomara’s skill and emotion. As a reader, you will learn everything about Xiomara and her family. Both siblings are seeking freedom to be themselves, and determine whether or not they can accept their own identities. However the bigger question is if the rest of the world can accept them.
The book addresses questions that any young person will ask themselves, regarding their bodies, ideas, and sexual orientation. This novel provided a fulfilling experience and reminder that it is all right to be vulnerable, arguing that only by revealing who we truly are can we become stronger.