Family Book Club: The Poet X
Reading level: young adult
Synopsis: 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.
Categories: poetry, religion, sexuality, family dynamics
- Poetry is how Xiomara expresses herself. How do you best express yourself?
- Of the four main teenage characters—Xiomara, Xavier (Twin), Caridad, and Aman—who do you relate to the most? Why?
- Xiomara and Aman quit talking when Aman doesn't stand up for her when she's harassed by some boys at school. Have you ever felt like a friend or crush didn't have your back when you needed them? How did you handle that?
- Xiomara feels trapped within the confines of a religious she isn't sure she agrees with. What sort of pressures—social, political, academic, religious, etc.—do you feel in your life? Are there any you wish you could break free of?
- How was your experience reading this novel-in-verse? Did you think it would have been different if it were written in prose?
Activity: COVID-19 has put a lot of events on hold, but a poetry slam is the perfect virtual get together. Invite your friends and family for a night of spoken word poetry, giving everyone the opportunity to share their writing in a group video chat. If you really want to get into it, you can set the stage—literally. Dress your best, frame your virtual stage with good lightning and curtains, and make snacks.