Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 207

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In this coming-of-age novel, Elizabeth Acevedo primarily explores themes of identity formation and creativity. In addition, the adolescent’s necessary break from adult authority encompasses themes of race and sexuality, along with Catholic religious beliefs and the difficulty of rejecting the belief system within which one grew up.

Xiomara is the teenage poet whose identification as “X” ironically identifies her as an individual writer coming into her own creative milieu, and de-individualizes her as a generic person without gender or race. In addition, she has a twin brother, Xavier, who is another “X”; his situation is further complicated because he is gay, a fact they must hide from their mother, Altagracia, a devout Catholic. The restrictions placed on Xiomara, because she is female, lead to deep internal conflicts over her growing awareness sexual desire and concern over her mother’s censure.

Not only writing poetry but also performing in a slam become the vehicle for Xiomara to develop and express her creativity and, finally, to publicly display her changing identity. As a multi-racial person, of African and Latina heritage, Xiomara’s journey to accepting these varied dimensions is complex; Acevedo helps us understand this as both unique to this character and emblematic of the contemporary American experience.

Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

Some of the major themes are self-acceptance, sexism, sexuality, and the rejection of religion through three parts (submission, rebellion, and finally, liberation). The Poet X is a novel written in verse form. It's the story of an adolescent Afro-Latina living in Harlem: Xiomara Batista. Though Xiomara's writings on her adolescent struggles with her faith, family, and self-acceptance are not uncommon, it is her heritage as an Afro-Latina that further complicates many of the themes with cultural relevance. She revisits self-acceptance by writing about her physical appearance in conjunction with puberty and her struggles with developing a "womanly" body. The themes of sexism and sexuality emerge with the unwanted advances of male peers and her first, forbidden love interest. The theme of religion and Xiomara's rejection of Christianity is exemplified by her ironic use of biblical scriptures to title the three major parts of the novel. The three major parts of the novel are also reflective of her own personal journey in self-awareness as well as her relationship to her family, particularly to her devout Christian mother.

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