Own Voice Authors, Read Women, Reviews

The Poet X

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The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
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, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she 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.

I really loved this book. It lived up to all the hype it’s gotten since it’s announcement and I’m so thankful I was able to read it. Xiomara is a first generation American who is trying to balance her life as such the best she can. Her family is from the Dominican Republic and her mother is extremely religious, only having married her husband to get to America. She tries to force these beliefs on Xiomara and her twin brother. But Xio is finding herself and questioning the things she’s known all her life. She does so through poetry and is able to find her voice in it. But this doesn’t come without hardships and cruelty when her mother finds out she’s dating a boy and about the poems themselves.

The writing in this book is simply beautiful. It’s done through poetry as Xio tells us the events that are some of her hardest to deal with. It makes these events more personal and brings you closer to her as a character. Though this book is something that is more focused on other first generation Americans that have to deal with finding a balance between their culture and the world they live in, I think a lot of people can still relate to different parts of this, such as questioning things your told to believe such as God and different things such as rules set by parents at this age.

I do warn that there is a lot of difficult subjects in this book such as abuse, sexual harassment and assault, sex, and a little bit about drugs. Sadly it’s something that a lot of people have to face, more so now it seems then ever. I think this book handled it well though and more than once I couldn’t help thinking how important this book is on subjects that are currently in the focal point of our news.

I highly recommend this book. It might not be for you, but it’s not written for you. This book is for all the first generation teens and adults out there. It’s about culture and finding balance. Even if it isn’t for you, I recommend it to better understand such issues people face.

Rating: 5 stars

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Own Voice Authors, Read Women, Reviews

You Bring the Distant Near

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You Bring the Distant Near

by Mitali Perkins

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

I really loved this book. It takes place over 2 generations, first through the 70’s then through early 2000’s, with a bit of their mother/grandmother thrown in to break up the two generations. It’s a lovely story about Indian immigrants who move from London to the US. They simply try to survive, but when their father dies, the women of the family break from tradition. Sonia marries an African American that her mother doesn’t approve of while Tara marries the man that her family was trying to arrange a marriage for the two of them, but because she fell for him. Instead of letting male family members honor their father, they do, Sonia cutting off her hair while Tara returns her father’s ashes to where he was born. We then skip to their daughters growing up, Chantel learning what it means to be Bangali and African American and Anna what it means to live in her cousin’s shadow and learning that she can still be American and Bangali. But the biggest growth in this book comes from Ranee Das, the matriarch of the family. She goes from being a negative and racist character to one that accepts anyone that loves her girls to becoming American herself. It’s a lovely transformation that leaves you proud of her and rooting that she gets a happy ending herself.

The writing in this book is lovely. I probably read most of the book in one night because it became near impossible to put it down. The characters are interesting and realistic and completely their own persons. With so many people and so many generations, you might worry they would all start to blend together, but they don’t. The only thing I wish was different is that we got a small window into Tara’s life as an adult like we did Sonia. But Tara’s story stops being about American, where this story focuses on the American side of it.

This story is perfect for today. It talks about issues we’re still facing in 2017 from racism to immigration to trying to find where you are in this world and who you are. There simply was no one better than the Das women to tell this story.

I highly recommend this book. In a time like now, we need stories like this desperately as a reminder what America truly is supposed to be, not what its current state is.

Rating: 5 stars