The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
SUMMARY: "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. In the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent." (Adapted from Goodreads)
REVIEW: Sometimes books come into your life and the encounter leaves no lasting impression, sometimes books come into your life and leave a mark on your heart but gracefully let themselves out the door...
BUUUUUT every once in a while there is a book that walks into your life, pulls up a seat, and makes a profound impact upon your soul.
Dear soul, meet THE POET X.
It's hard to put into words the journey that Elizabeth Acevedo took me on. So much of Xiomara's story cut right to my heart: her painful relationship with her mother, her yearning for companionship, her fight for the freedom to question, her discovery of her voice through the written word. X was real; her heart was tangible, and I'm so incredibly grateful to have met her.
If you've never read a book in verse before, I absolutely recommend it. Acevedo is an incredibly talented poet and her ability to weave together a beautiful story using expressive lyrics is straight mastery. (ALSO, stories in verse read fast and make you think you're a more talented speed reader than you really are.)
100000000% recommend reading this beauty. It's a story I will be absolutely passing down to my kids and recommending for a very long time.
SENSITIVITY WARNINGS: religious extremism (specifically, Xiomara's mom's very strict and unhealthy understanding of Catholicism), emotional abuse, generational cultural dissonance.
ON THE POET X and CATHOLICISM: If any of you have read THE POET X as can relate to the type of strict and forced religion that X experienced, especially within Catholicism, I'm so sorry.
I've learned that there can be a strong disconnect with parents and children when it comes to faith and expectations (as seen with X and her mom). Often, it comes down to a parent's inability to explain why teachings of faith (in X's case specifically, the sacraments and chastity) are so important. And sometimes, it comes down to an unhealthy or inaccurate understanding of faith, altogether.
As a practicing Catholic who loves the Church, X's experience is heartbreaking. Not because her experience is an unrealistic example of how some Catholics interpret the living out of Church teaching, but because X was never met with compassion.
Although Xiomara was given permission by Fr. Sean to ask questions - which is absolutely essential to discovering faith - she was never given the environment to nurture those questions.
As a mom, my hope is that my personal faith will lend itself to witness and that witness will be shared as a part of my children's journey. That they will come to understand the Church as their home on their own doing. No forcing. No punishing. No unhealthy or toxic expectations. Just witness and love.
Anywho, if you're still reading, you're a champ! These were all thoughts that didn't fit inside of my review, so I thought I'd post them here at the end.
Again, if your experience has been a negative one with Catholicism or religion in general, I'm so sorry. That sucks. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like to dialogue on any of this. I'm here for you!!
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