For girls who didn't grow up seeing themselves as the main characters of books, award-winning poet Elizabeth Acevedo wants them to know that their stories are just as important as any other. Acevedo shares her Brief but Spectacular take on seeing you.
Hari Sreenivasan: Next, we turn to another installment of our weekly Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people about their passions.
Tonight, we hear from award-winning poet Elizabeth Acevedo. Raised in New York City, she is the daughter of Dominican immigrants and frequently includes themes of race, gender, and oppression in her work.
Acevedo’s latest book, “The Poet X,” became available this week.
Elizabeth Acevedo: This is for us writers, us readers, us girls who never saw ourselves on bookshelves, but we’re still writing poems when we talk, and we have been called teeth-sucking, of snapping eyes, born bitter, brittle, of tangled tongues, sandpaper that’s been origamied into girls, not worthy of being the hero, nor the author.
But we were always Medusa’s favorite daughters. Dreaming in the foreshadows, we composed ourselves, since childhood, taking pens to palms, as if we could rewrite the stanzas of lifelines that try to tell us we would never amount to much.
And when we were relegated to the margin, we still danced bachata in the footnotes. We still strong-armed the gatekeepers. We still clawed our ways onto the cover, brought our full selves to the page, and wore every color palette and bouquet of pansies and big hoops and these here hips and smart ass quips and popping bubble gum kisses.
Us girls who never saw ourselves on bookshelves, but were still writing tales in the dark. Us brown girls, brick built, masters of every metaphor and every metamorphosis, catch us with fresh manicures, nail filing down, obsidian stones and painstakingly crafting our own mirrors and stories into existence.
This poem that I read for you all was my thinking through, what does it mean to be someone who maybe didn’t grow up with a mirror and wanting to create that now, to see your reflection and also show kids who might look like you, like, hey, we’re here.
It’s very much thinking about those of us who wrote even when we didn’t see ourselves as main characters and for those of us who are writing now, who hopefully will come forward with more examples, but who are also going to carry the torch of saying, our stories are just as important as any other stories.
I think a lot about the movements that are happening right now in terms of MeToo and TimesUp. We are going to shift the status quo, shift the way that women have been treated for so long.
And I just hope that the shift always remembers women of color and poor women and disenfranchised women who maybe may not have the loudest microphone in front of them. And I hope that those of us who may not be that loud are still, like, thought of and remembered and passed the mic.
My name is Elizabeth Acevedo, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on seeing you.
Hari Sreenivasan: You can find additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.