Oh friends! How I have been looking forward to this day! We have a book launch to celebrate. Stop what you are doing right now. I’ve got an interview for you to read and book that must be added to your collection. Elizabeth Acevedo’s, THE POET X, is waiting at a bookstore near you. And boy, do we need this book. Acevedo’s novel-in-verse tackles the heart of finding your voice, your power, your place in this world, while challenging preconceived notions, ideas, beliefs . . . and I am just scratching the surface in this summary. THE POET X is entering this world while teens across the country (and beyond) are finding their own voices and using that powerful energy for change. What timing.
Here’s how Harper Collins sums up THE POET X.
“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. But she still 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.”
THE POET X received a star review from Kirkus, saying “It’s about how the power that we find in other peoples’ stories is a power we can claim for ourselves. That we, ourselves, can become the storytellers.
And it’s about how acknowledging and expressing hard personal truths—truths rooted in pain, fury, exhaustion—can lead us to hope and joy and wonder and optimism.”
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Elizabeth about her book, about this rising voice, the importance of girls of color seeing their own stories on bookshelves. Friends, grab your coffee, you are going to want to savor every word of what Elizabeth has to say. And then RUN to the bookstore and grab a copy of her debut novel-in-verse. This book will move you.
Now, without further adieu, my special conversation with Elizabeth Acevedo, author, slam poet, and woman extraordinaire.
Anna Crowley Redding
Anna – One of the powerful things that struck me about THE POET X is your main character, Xiomara Batista, and her struggle to find her voice and thus, her own path, her own journey, her own place in this world. I started thinking about your readers and how that core truth might move them. Do you think about that, too? What do you hope they take from your pages and from Xiomara’s words?
Elizabeth – I definitely want my readers to feel that that their voice matters and that their unique story is important. It’s easy to feel small in this world, and a reminder that you can be your own narrator, and hero, is definitely a theme I hope comes through.
Anna – Your book is hitting the shelves at a time when young people, teenagers in particular, are reacting to powerful events in our country. They, too, are finding their voice and learning the incredible value it has. What would you say to these teens?
Elizabeth – “Go on! Y’all have the answers.” I really am inspired by the young people I’ve seen in Florida, and the teens I saw protesting in Baltimore and Ferguson before them, and the teens I saw at the Women’s March. Time and again I’m reminded that it’s young people who have led most major movements in this country and it will be young people who will leads us, this country, this world, towards a more empathetic and fuller future.
Anna – Ibi Zoboi, author of American Street, had this to say about THE POET X: “Acevedo has amplified the voices of girls en el barrio who are equal parts goddess, saint, warrior, and hero.” Tell me what it’s like to read that sentence and to add your powerful book to the shelves of young girls and girls of color in particular?
Elizabeth – I loved reading that sentence by Ibi. I think she gets the world in a different level than many readers, firstly because we are friends, but also because we have similar ideas about getting girls of color from the hood into books and showing their full complexity. We both understand that young women from urban areas contain multitudes beyond how they’ve been represented in literature to date. I hope to continuing writing stories that celebrate those many sides.
Anna – Is there hope that the world is actually changing? We have #metoo, #ownvoices, #blacklivesmatter, #neveragain and . . . on the movie/entertainment front, we have The Black Panther! Is there hope for more diverse books in publishing for children and young adults? And more voices, period. A more authentic view and experience of the actual diverse world we live in?
Elizabeth – I think the publishing industry is beginning to realize that stories from marginalized backgrounds are necessary for the future readers of our country. I think they are responding to the demand that those stories be published, I just hope that they also remember this is not a trend; it’s an ongoing effort to equalize publishing and reflect the many cultural experiences that make up this nation.
Anna – What would you say to young writers, who are lucky enough to get a copy of your book!
Elizabeth – I hope you enjoy!
Anna – Lastly, if you could hop a plane right now, and sit next to yourself as a junior in English lit class . . . what would you whisper into the ear of your younger self?
Elizabeth – There is no blueprint. There is no one path. No one can tell you how to be the woman you want to became. You must make her up. And you are brilliant and bold enough to do so.
Emu’s Debuts author Anna Crowley Redding‘s GOOGLE IT: A History of Google comes out August 2018 from Feiwel & Friends.