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The Poet X By Elizabeth Acevedo

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Buffalo chapter.


Told in verse, “The Poet X” narrates the story of 15-year-old Xiomara Batista, as she struggles with body image issues, the rape culture within her school, a new relationship with a boy in her class, as well as her overly religious mother’s grip on her life in an attempt to bring her closer to God. With so much to say and no one who will listen, Xiomara turns to her journal, where she finds solace in turning her thoughts and feelings into poetry.

“And I knew then what I’d known since my period came: my body was trouble. I had to pray the trouble out of the body God gave me. My body was a problem. And I didn’t want any of these boys to be the ones to solve it.”

One of the major topics Acevedo discusses in the book is Xiomara’s view of her own body as well as other people’s (men in particular) views of it. At 15 years old, she is tall with a curvaceous figure in which boys in her neighborhood pine after, and as a result, she struggles to feel comfortable and self-accepting of herself and her body. An honest depiction of rape culture is shown as Xiomara is constantly catcalled on the streets and boys in her school attempt to touch her without her consent. Her overly religious mother blames her for such occurrences, so she resorts to using her fists and sharp tongue to defend herself. Acevedo depicts Xiomara’s constant struggle with her body in a way that, unfortunately, many young girls and women can relate to as she goes through the feelings of anger, guilt, and shame in regards to the way the men around her try to objectify her because of her body.

“That’s when I feel like a fake. Because I nod, and clap, and “Amen” and “Aleluya,” all the while feeling like this house, his house is no longer one I want to rent.”

Another big topic Acevedo discusses in the book is religion. Xiomara’s mother, Mami is a devout Christian who strictly follows the sayings of the bible and religiously goes to church. Xiomara, however, has very contrasting views on religion than her mother, and often questions church, scriptures, and God. She has a difficult time accepting the religious ways of her family and friends, which results in issues between her and her mother. Throughout the story, Xiomara’s mother goes to many lengths, including verbal and physical abuse, and uses her religious beliefs as justification for her actions. The way young girls are raised in religious households to believe that their bodies are barriers for men is also discussed, and Xiomara finds herself constantly angry at the notion that she is expected to compress herself and her body to make men feel comfortable. Being LGBTQ+ in a Christian household is also touched upon as Xiomara’s twin brother is gay and closeted. The two share feelings of dread when thinking about how he will be regarded in their religious community if his sexuality ever comes to light. A lot of Xiomara’s questioning of God comes from her resentment at the struggles she faces in her life, from her body to the abuse from her mother, and how she feels God has been absent during the times she’s needed him the most.

“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”

Through all of her struggles, Xiomara finds peace in her poetry. She lets her thoughts form poems, raw and unfiltered, her words sharp, blazing across the page. With some persuasion from her English teacher, Ms. Galiano, Xiomara secretly joins her school’s slam poetry club and starts performing her poetry. As she dives deeper into her poetry, she also begins to dive deeper into who she is as a young woman. She forms a sweet romance with Aman, a classmate from Trinidad. With him, she begins to explore who she is and the ways in which she feels comfortable in her own body, while also learning to see herself as beautiful.

“It’s about any of the words that bring us together and how we can form a home in them.”

The Poet X is lyrical, deep, and utterly compelling. It is a story about overcoming the harsh expectations set out by our families while seeking out who we are and what we want for ourselves. It is about loving our bodies and souls and fighting back against what society deems right and wrong by creating our own space in the world where we feel comfortable and safe. Xiomara’s voice is vulnerable and empowering. It is one that will help propel young girls all around the world to speak out, in whatever form they wish, and be who they truly are.

Fatima Makama

Buffalo '25

Fatima Makama is an undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo studying Public Health with a passion for global healthcare as well as the intersections between medicine and writing through the medical humanities. An aspiring writer with far too many book ideas and too little time to write them, you can often find her reading, watching Netflix and buying far too many books as per booktube's recommendations.