For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo



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. ~
Goodreads

Source: Library – audio version read by the author

Review:

As most of you know, I’m new to audiobooks, and I struggle a lot with them but The Poet X was meant to be heard.

Told in verse, with Acevedo’s narration, protagonist Xiomara’s (X) words take on a rhythm and power and X's joy, pain anger, and heartbreak are like a punch to the gut.

The Poet X is about a lot of things...coming of age, her relationship with her twin brother, a budding romance, race, religion, the antagonistic relationship with her mother – but at it’s core it’s a story about girls bodies.

When Xiomara was a young girl, she was taunted for being too big, too unattractive. Then as her body develops curves the attention to her body changes – the same boys who made fun of her now want her. And this – her body and how it occupies space - more than anything else - shapes X’s narrative.

“I am 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.”

As this type of attention grows, Xiomara’s mother tries to shame her about her body, acting as if her very existence makes her a whore, falling into scripture and her deep religious beliefs to knock her down over and over again.

As Xiomara struggles with all these forces around her, she harnesses her usual anger and violence and channels it into her slam poetry. Through the poetry she discovers like minded people who accept her as she is and gains an inner strength.

This girl is a FORCE.

There are a lot of things that might be disturbing to readers including body/slut shaming, homophobia, abuse, and some of the religious aspects but I loved how Acevedo managed to turn it all around at the end – showing that you can get help, there are both good and bad within every community. Not all adults were bad, not all boys were out for one thing, the church can be full of judgement but also welcoming and helpful. She definitely showed the ugly parts but also balanced it out with nuanced portrayals IMO.

If I could only describe The Poet X with one word – I would say fierce. I felt this book on a visceral level. It was just so powerful and inspiring. This was my first 5 star read of 2019 and I'm moving on to Acevedo's With the Fire on High next - also narrated by the author - although not poetry this time.

23 comments:

  1. I’ve been looking for some audiobooks to listen to while I’m working out. I’ll have to see if my library has this one. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. It's just a few hours long too so perfect for a workout.

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  2. I love the cover, and I've only heard good things about this book!!

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    1. I wasn't sure what to expect - I'm not into poetry and I struggle with audiobooks but WOW - this was perfection for both.

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  3. Once I learned that Acevedo narrated The Poet X, I regretted reading the book. I have seen some of her poetry performances, and she is incredible, and the story was fantastic too.

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    1. It's only about 3 hours long so you could totally squeeze it in! :-) Of course, if you've heard her live, you probably don't need to.

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  4. I hadn't heard of this before but it does sound interesting.

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    1. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

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  5. I do like poetry...but a story told in verses doesn't appeal to me. Then again, your review was dope!

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    1. I don't like either lol but somehow the emotion came through so strongly (Maybe because it was audio?) and I loved it. It was also more slam poetry and less verse so that helped.

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  6. I'm so happy that you enjoyed this one, and that you listened to the audio version! It might be one of my favorite audiobooks of all time. The narrator really made me feel the words with her voice, and it's so hard to describe exactly how impactful the overall experience was for me. When her mother does that to her book/journal... something broke inside of me, for her and her mother, that I still remember to this day. I cannot wait to listen to her second book!! Let me know what you think.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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    1. The audio was incredible. I'm listening to The Fire on High next.

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  7. I'm so glad you liked this one! It's definitely on my list of things to read, so hopefully I can get a copy soon!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I hope you can and it's SO worth listening to on audio.

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  8. I read this one last year and was so moved by how incredibly powerful this was. With so few words, the author really hit home so many issues surrounding identity, marginalisation, womanhood and how the world perceives us. I can't wait to read her latest release, I might try this one on audio too, it sounds even more phenomenal.

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    1. Its only about 3 hours on audio and totally worth reading it again because her voice is perfection.

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  9. I love this review! You described my feelings about this book, too! Thanks for sharing your review. 👍✨

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  10. These two books are everywhere. And my TBR! I wish I could get to it already.

    Gayathri @ Elgee Writes

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    1. The Poet X is worthy of the hype. I hope you give it a try.

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  11. I did enjoy reading this one but I think I would have loved it if I listened to it and I am planning a reread that way! It sounds like this was a good one for you and even though in some parts it was painful, you learned a lot!

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