62 pages 2 hours read

Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

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

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Guilt, Shame, and Religion

The feelings of guilt and shame mark many of Xiomara’s difficulties with her mother, starting from a very young age. At age 11, Xiomara learned to link her own body with intense feelings of shame because her mother clumsily managed the arrival of Xiomara’s first period. In her inexperience, Xiomara bought herself tampons without knowing how to use them. This decision horrified her mother, who hit Xiomara across the face. Mami felt at the time that tampons were only for women who were sexually active, and her actions only confused the innocent Xiomara.

Because Xiomara’s period arrived much earlier than Mami expected, Mami was perhaps not prepared for the change. Possibly, she was also frightened by the fact that her daughter was developing so quickly. No matter the explanation for Mami’s insensitive and borderline abusive behavior, Xiomara internalized her mother’s assertion that “[g]ood girls don’t wear tampones” (40). This early exchange may have initiated the intense conflicts that would soon characterize Xiomara’s relationship with her mother.

Mami’s Catholicism is a religion full of warnings and conditions, and these admonitions exist alongside its promise of love, peace, and heaven. Because Mami is such a devout Catholic, she does not allow Xiomara any space to doubt any of the cautionary tales Xiomara learns at church and in confirmation class.