The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

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How do cultural stereotypes and gender roles impact characters in The Poet X?

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Stereotypes about culture and gender have a significant impact on several characters in The Poet X. These effects are readily observable within Xiomara’s family. Elizabeth Acevedo shows how the forces of culture and gender act together in shaping the characters’ identities and their behavior toward each other.

One place where the combination of culture and gender clearly affects a character is in Xiomara’s twin brother, Xavier. Because he is male, there are expectations that he should conform to norms of masculine behavior. However, Xavier is gay and struggles to find and express his own unique identity in the midst of social pressures. The stereotypes are also reversed in her behavior as his protector after bullies attack him.

Cultural and gender stereotypes are shown in the depiction of the twins’ mother, Altagracia (“Mami”). Because she wants them to be obedient, model, church-going children, both of them have difficulty expressing themselves to her. Xiomara says in a poem that her parents would have preferred “a girl who would sit in the pews / wearing pretty florals and a soft smile.” One manifestation of Mami’s desire to keep them insulated within Dominican American, Catholic culture is her opposition to Xiomara’s dating Aman, a Trinidadian American boy; eventually she comes to accept him as an individual.

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