A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Elizabeth Acevedo's New York Times best-seller The Poet X is the winner of the 2019 Printz Award. It's a coming-of-age story about a first-generation Dominican American teen, Xiomara, growing up as a thoroughly American young woman with a developed body in a deeply religious (Catholic) immigrant home. There are instances of street harassment, parental abuse, religious discussions, sexual exploration (some kissing, and one scene of heavy petting), and the revelation of a character being gay. Xiomara hits boys who ogle and grope her and also fights boys who threaten her brother. As punishment, her mother makes her kneel on uncooked rice and hits Xiomara, causing injury. Parents should be prepared to talk about agency, finding your voice, and religious texts and meaning.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Xiomara is THE POET X, and her life is a constant fight. She fights for her brother, who won't fight for himself. She fights with her mother, who sees her as nothing more than sin; she fights the world for telling her she is nothing more than her hips, boobs, and thighs. She fights a religion that doesn't seem quite fair; she fights to be visible, to be free, to have a voice. Then she fights to keep it. Xiomara is ready to open her fists and raise her voice. The school's poetry slam club is a way to take back her power, but is the world -- is her family -- ready for Xiomara?
Is it any good?
This novel in verse is stunning, beautiful, and uncomfortably accurate at times. In The Poet X, author Elizabeth Acevedo takes readers through Xiomara's life as she finds herself being punished for simply existing and having the audacity to want to exist outside of the narrow boxes where society, religion, and her mother have decided she belongs. Readers can feel the shame, fear, and confusion Xiomara grapples with so much that they may have to resist the temptation to withdraw into themselves like Xiomara.
Acevedo perfectly captures what it's like to have a changing body that suddenly becomes an indictment against who you are, even though you have no control over how it has blossomed into womanhood. The sexualization and policing of girls' bodies, and the silencing of their voices by those who install themselves as their protectors, is particularly striking in this moment of the #MeToo movement and the nationwide battles over school dress codes that unfairly target girls and women. The book is timely, sensitive, powerful, and hopeful. Families of both boys and girls can have great discussions about puberty, gender politics, religion, and finding your voice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Poet X confronts street harassment and policing of girls' bodies. Have you ever been harassed on the street or seen someone being harassed? How did it make you feel? Are there unfair or highly detailed dress codes for girls at your school? Is that fair? If not, what can you do about it?
Are there certain jobs or chores that are divided by gender? How does that make you feel? What can you do to address gender stereotypes at school, at home, and in your community?
Growing up can be tough. Do you have an outlet for your feelings? What do you do to express yourself?
- Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: March 6, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: July 19, 2020
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