THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo

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Xiomara’s mother wanted to be a nun. She wanted to spend the rest of her life in a convent in the Dominican Republic. But she wound up married to an unfaithful husband and living in NYC. And for some inexplicable reason, she takes her life’s frustrations out on Xiomara. To her mother, everything about Xiomara is wrong–from her curvy body to her love of poetry to (especially) her discomfort with Catholicism. In fact, when Xiomara tells the priest she doesn’t want to be confirmed in the church, her mother refuses to accept the priest’s recommendation that she let Xiomara wait. Xiomara has toed the line her entire life, but in this, she stages a small rebellion. Instead of attending confirmation classes, she stays late after school and joins the poetry club. And after a spending most of her life trying to repress and hide the parts of herself her mother won’t like, Xiomara finally starts to find her voice.

There’s nothing more I can add to the gushing praise of this book except to say (truthfully) that I literally did not put it down. I meant to read a few pages after dinner and ended up carrying it around with me for the rest of the evening until I finished it. It is rare that a realistic fiction engages me to that extent. Xiomara’s story is riveting and nuanced. As a Catholic myself, I appreciated the fact that alongside Xiomara’s reservations about religion, her best friend and brother (and the priest) show positive depictions of faith. The story is raw and authentic, with well-developed characters that give every reader a chance to both see themselves reflected and to see someone else’s point of view sensitively portrayed. There’s a reason this one is an award-winner and an instant classic. If you haven’t read it yet, do.

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