62 pages 2 hours read

Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | YA | Published in 2018

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Part 1Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “In the Beginning Was the Word”

Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary: “Friday, August 24-Sunday, September 16”

In the first poem of the novel, Xiomara describes her neighborhood in Harlem as she reflects on the end of the summer. From her seat on her stoop, she sees “the old church ladies, chancletas flapping” (3), and listens to “honking cabs with bachata blaring / from their open windows” (3) as a group of drug dealers watch “girls in summer dresses and short shorts” (4). She goes inside when she knows it’s nearly time for her mother to be home from work. Xiomara reflects on her appearance, her mother’s warnings about boys, and her name, which means “[o]ne who is ready for war” (7). According to Xiomara, her mother found her birth difficult, unlike the birth of her twin brother, Xavier, so an unusual name that “labors out of some people’s mouths” (7) feels appropriate to her.

Xiomara’s mother works as a cleaner in Queens, and she passes the time on her commute by “reading verses / getting ready for the evening Mass” (11). Mami, a devout Catholic, wants Xiomara to be confirmed, but Xiomara doesn’t know how to tell her that Jesus now feels like a friend “who invites himself over too often, who texts me too much” (13).