The Poet X

The Poet X

Winner of the 2019 Michael L. Printz Award

"Rough Draft Assignment 4--When was the last time you felt most free?

Maybe the last time I was happy saying a poem?

With Aman listening to me, my eyes half closed-

the moment before I opened my mouth,

when  I was nervous and my heart thumped fast,

but I knew I could do it anyway, that I could

say something, anything, in this moment

and someone was going to listen.

Some kids are trying to find their way through the maze of adolescence..being a teen... by themselves....really by themselves.  For them there is no parent to turn to.  These kids feel like they are the only one who feels lost, who feels not enough, who feels like they can't see where they are going or why.  These readers need stories that show them the truth that everyone is searching and in the process of figuring out who they are and who they want to be.  They need stories that show them parents who have problems and don't know how to be parents or even parents who think they are doing their best for their good reasons but who are failing their children.

We are so lucky to have authors who are smart enough to be able to tell these stories in an authentic voice.  POET X is one of those stories.  Xiomara Batista is about to have a few million new best friends even though she exists in the pages of a book.  Readers will be able to come back to her time and time again to read how she felt, what she did, how her parents responded and how she found her way.  What a gift.

Xiomara Batista is struggling to find a space in the world where she can figure out who she is, how she belongs here, what she believes in and how she can fit into her family.  Ever since her body grew up without even asking, she has been defending her femininity from the boys in the hallways and her mami's rigid rules.  She is a fighter and she's been the one to take a swing at some jerk when her brother has needed someone to speak for him.  But against her mami and her mami's rules, Xiomara can't just use her fists.  She's a held prisoner by her mami's own past and the rules of the Catholic Church.

Told in verse, this is the story of a Latina teenager whose parents have struggled in their own relationship and who is now coming face to face with having to begin to define and choose for herself what she thinks is right for her.  When her lab partner in science share his love of music with her, a relationship develops between the two.  Slowly they try it out to see how it might work and how they really feel about each other.  At the same time, Xiomara's twin is discovering his own first love, a boy at his school.

Her school has a slam poetry club and the sponsor encourages Xiomara to join and to use her poems to find her voice.  To be herself Xiomara has to hide and pretend and keep secrets.  To be true to herself means stepping outside the lines and rules that her parents have etched into her mind.  What would happen if she takes that step?  What will she gain and what will she lose?

The struggle to understand and own her own sexuality and her own feelings and that inner scream that is pushing her to make her voice heard are painfully, brutally authentic.  It's simultaneously wondrous and torturous to watch a human being finding herself and it's a journey that will be a gift to teens across the spectrum who will be thankful that someone else understands and feels and knows what it's like to be them.

Powerful voice,  Important journey.  A revolution in 368 pages.

368 pages   978-0062662804   Ages 14 and up

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge,


Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing #ownvoices novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.

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—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.--from the publisher

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