Our November book club pick for Now Read This, the PBS NewsHour’s book club with The New York Times, is Elizabeth Acevedo’s “The Poet X”. The verse novel chronicles 15-year-old Xiomara Batista’s struggle to adapt to the physical and emotional changes that come with adolescence, and how she finds an outlet in slam poetry.
While she has grown up her whole life in a religious Dominican family, Xiomara begins to more seriously question the teachings of the church and strict expectations of her mother when she enters her teen years. Her changing body is the subject of unwanted attention at school, and a source of added stress.
“Xiomara struggles to find a voice in this strange new world and resorts to using her fists instead of words,” author Julie Fogliano wrote in a New York Times interview. “But, in the safety of her notebook, Xiomara finds refuge in poetry.” With the support of her boyfriend, Aman, Xiomara grows more comfortable sharing the poetry in her notebook and opens up to a wider audience when she joins her school’s slam poetry club.
Fogliano, who called “The Poet X” a book “from the heart, for the heart,” wrote that “Acevedo’s powerful free verse manages to stay contained within the book’s covers. The force and intensity behind her words practically pushes them off the page, resulting in a verse novel that is felt as much as it is heard.”
In a 2018 Brief But Spectacular essay for the PBS NewsHour, Acevedo recited the poem “This is for us,” dedicated to “girls / who never saw ourselves on bookshelves, / but still wrote poems when we talked.”
She will join the NewsHour at the end of the month to answer your questions about “The Poet X.” We hope you and the young adult readers in your life will join us.