Xiomara. 1. One who is ready for war. 2. The name her mother gives her when she bursts into the world fighting so hard she has the whole barrio praying for her to survive labor. She'll swear she thought it was a saint's name. Always take her daughter to the church she lives for, tell her constantly to listen, be good, build her a cloister of accusations and arguments and punishments. Her daughter will question the church, question the men who run it, question her mother's stinging authority. And she will never be enough. Instead, she will become a fifteen-year-old girl catcalled for her curves, known for her fists and ferocity, hiding her vulnerability, hiding her exhaustion, because no one, no one else is ever going to protect her from a world that thinks it owns her.
X. What Xiomara's secret more-than-friend from bio class calls her, warming her every time he says it, a sweet secret warmth laced with the fear of what will happen when Mami finds out and this relationship, dream, hidden grasp for freedom shatters into a million painful shards.
The Poet X. A dream. An impossibility. An escape. A girl scribbling frustrations and fears and fragments of ideas of who she really is and who she wants to be on the pages of a battered notebook when her mother isn't looking. A girl on a stage, speaking the words she hides at school, chokes down at home. A girl taking up space and speaking her truth--and loved for it.
I absolutely adored The Poet X, a spare, piercing, perfectly balanced exploration of family, friendship, growing up and learning to live your truth when the whole world seems intent on holding you down. I'm constantly amazed by the depth that can be attained in free verse through so few words; Acevedo, a decorated slam poet, does so with ease. The characters are multilayered and deftly complex, and the family dynamics are especially well-executed, a tangle of anger and bitterness and silence made both heartwrenching and authentic by the threads of painful, complicated love embedded within it. Xiomara's voice is authentic and vibrant, and it's a true joy to watch her learn to love herself and take up the space she so wholeheartedly deserves as the story progresses. I would highly recommend The Poet X to readers ages thirteen and up, especially for discussion or book clubs.