Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I don't know if we're supposed to call it a novel or a poetry collection, but The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is unlike anything else I’ve read. I could tell, right from the beginning, why it’s been getting so much attention: It’s a masterpiece of language that will, one day, be held up as one of the great classics of modern times.

Language is part of what sets The Poet X apart from its peers. Slang and Spanish are used alongside breathtaking figurative language in a way that captures the struggle of today’s youth to find a voice that is distinctly their own. That’s not to say that The Poet X is always easy to read! It’s like the poet says, ‘I don’t always understand every line but love the picture being painted behind my eyelids.’

This book tells a story through a collection of verse. Many poems work together to tell a single story of awakening, of becoming. I grew up a middle-class white girl in a predominantly white town - about as far from the main character, Xiomara's, experience as possible - but the truths are so universal that it could be my story too. Or, yours. Really, it’s our story.

Because The Poet X isn’t only a coming-of-age story wrapped in poetry. It’s also a cry to feminism. Xiomara fights her own battle against patriarchy and what society has told girls we can or can’t be. The interesting thing here is that Xiomara's mother is the one holding her back, the one slapping labels on her. Yes, women can (and do) hold other women back. The Poet X shines a light on that travesty.

Xiomara finds her voice, her strength, through poetry. Poetry allows her to become what she’s always known she is but was told she couldn’t be: a warrior. I can just picture Maya Angelou clapping Xiomara on the back with a cheeky wink, saying, “Thats my girl.”

Forget the hard-to-relate Romantics that schools keep shoving down students’ throats. This is what they should be teaching.

The Poet X contains many different poetic styles, all with a single voice. It shows us that, despite our cultural differences, we’re all more similar than we think. It allows us to wonder about those other cultures, gives us a chance to discuss and explore them. The Poet X is a must for the classroom, especially for educators who want to do more than force students to parrot back lines that haven’t been relevant in a hundred years.

As a grown-ass adult who still hides her poetry like it’s a dirty secret, I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X - and I can’t say enough how important it is for you to read it.

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