The Poet X
Xiomara Batista is a teenage girl living in Harlem. Her mother is a devout Catholic; her father a mostly-silent presence haunting the living room; her twin brother whip-smart but timid. As the only daughter in her Dominican family, there are certain expectations of Xiomara: that she attend church regularly, that she never invite attention from boys or older men, that she remain quiet and obedient to her elders. But Xiomara has never felt she can be the person everyone else wants her to be.
What Xiomara wants is to be a poet. In her journal, she writes poetry about family, friendship, high school, and the infuriating double standards girls and women endure. After falling in love with a boy named Aman, Xiomara has even more poems to write-but she cannot tell her parents she is involved with a boy. Knowing her mother would also disapprove of her writing, Xiomara secretly joins a slam poetry club and begins to share her words with her peers. But when her mother discovers Xiomara’s journal and reads about Aman and the poetry club, their conflict reaches a devastating crescendo.
This novel-in-verse is the story of a young girl fighting to find her voice and identity among the constraints of her family, religion, and culture. Xiomara’s poems are raw and honest, heartbreaking and inspiring. I encourage readers to listen to this on audio book, which is narrated by the author. Hearing this story out loud is a wonderful way to reconnect with your love of poetry-or to discover it for the first time. Though written for a young adult audience, Xiomara’s story will appeal to anyone who believes in the power of stories and words to set us free.
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Review by Shannon Bowring, Technical Services Coordinator