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The Poet X
A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
-Excerpt taken from Goodreads
Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.
(4 / 5) This is a powerful story of a teen Dominican-American girl trying to find her place in this world. She is broken and confused and searching for someone to accept her. She’s having a trial of faith while trying to sort through her feelings of teen angst and what it means to be herself. She discovers slam poetry and watching her find comfort in the words and the people was so satisfying. For a girl who was and still is, very lost, the poetry was like therapy for her. It was hard not to be happy for her.
The mom made me so mad. She would react very emotionally and aggressively and I struggled with her character. Even if you want to do or say certain things, as a parent, you have to stop and think first. Sometimes it’s more important to save the relationship with your kid, than to make your point. Kids and teens are too fragile and mostly just need someone to be there that they can rely on. It’s easier said than done! But it’s so important.
Azevedo describes teen angst and teen brain so well that I felt it. I felt her pain and confusion. I remembered feeling all these same feelings. Xiomara needed someone to love her unconditionally. She needed people to accept her. Because she didn’t have that, she instead tried to conform and do what she was supposed to and fought her inner self. My heart broke many times. I wish that her mom or dad were places of refuge, but they just added to the problems.
This was a powerful read and one I’d recommend to parents (as funny as that is), but also those that are looking for direction in their life. Sometimes you can find it in the oddest of places. The content was highest in the intimacy section. There are a lot of sexual innuendo or teens fooling around. Menstruation and masturbation are also talked about. One parent is physically aggressive with her kids and that makes for some intense scenes.
Detailed Content Review
Derogatory terms etc-
A young woman is called “ho” in Dominican by each of her parents.
Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking
“What if we want to smoke weed?”
A young woman smells marajuana on a young man.
A young man drinks a beer.
Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty
*Minor LGBTQ+ aspects included*
A young woman has D cups and boys ask her for pictures of herself in a thong.
“Is masterbation a sin?”
“… I’m ready to creep behind a stairwell and let him feel me up.”
“What if I get addicted to sex?”
A young woman starts her period but she doesn’t know what it is, so she googles “blood down there” then buys tampons. She puts the tampons in not far enough and blood is down her thighs. She’s crying. When her mom comes home she slaps her (splitting her lip) and tells her good girls don’t use tampons and is she even a virgin now? Her mom prayed for her.
Because a young woman is very developed, guys pull on her bra strap, one whispered in her ear. They say they know what she wants. She feels excited but fights them off.
A young man holds his crotch in a rude gesture to another young man.
Men and young men tend to grab themselves or rub up against a young woman and talk to her in a degrading manner then make her sexual offers.
A young woman masterbates (somewhat vague) then feels shame for feeling good.
A young woman and young man kiss. He bites her lip and sticks his tongue in her mouth.
A young man puts his hands up a young woman’s shirt but she jumps back, stopping it.
A young woman and young man dance and grind at a party. She says if they weren’t dancing they’d be “you know” because she could feel all of him.
A sister learns her brother is gay. It is referred to a few times. He has a boyfriend at one point.
A young woman and young man kiss passionately for a long time. She feels her boyfriend has made her a junkie for him.
“… so you can open your legs for any boy…. carry a diploma in your belly….”
Young men at school bump into a young woman and squeeze her behind.
A young woman jokes she wasn’t with a guy, she was with two guys and a girl.
A young man and young woman kiss and take each other’s clothes off. It feels good to her. He touches her breast. They’re lying naked on his couch and she can feel “the part of him that’s hard,” his hand brushes her thigh and moves up. She stops his hand, he’s bumping against her but she knows they need to stop.
Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood
A mother drags her teen daughter by her shirt, and places her in front of a statue. She then grabs her hair to push her toward the statue.
A mother slaps her teen daughter causing her to fall.
Potentially Intense Themes
A woman burns a precious notebook of a young woman.
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