Poet and novelist Elizabeth Acevedo has been well known on the slam poetry circuit for years. Her poems cover subjects like colonialism, spirituality, feminism, and Afro-Latinidad, and pull from a variety of inspirations. This spring, Acevedo is reaching a whole new audience with her words: Her debut YA novel, The Poet X, is hitting shelves to rave reviews and sold-out tours. The Poet X follows Xiomara, a teen growing up in Harlem who feels caught between her mami’s sometimes-oppressive faith and her love for writing and performing poetry. While the book itself isn’t autobiographical, it’s clear that Acevedo mulls over many of the same things in her poetry and her fiction.
She shared with Remezcla what she’s been reading lately, and you’ll find she’s drawn to many of the same topics present in her writing: the perils of rape culture, of racism, colonialism and immigration, and the power of storytelling, and the need to include brown and Black girls. Here’s what she had to say.
The Poet X is now available for purchase. Buy it here.
Islandborn by Junot Díaz
I got an opportunity to hear Díaz speak about his debut picture book, and I was as enthralled by this storyline as any of his other literary endeavors. In this powerful story about Lola – a girl who collects stories of the island that she emigrated from and no longer remembers – we get an amazing effort to capture the rupture that happens when you must leave the place you are from and must also carry that place with you to a strange new land. Although it’s a picture book, this is a story for all ages.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Through heartbreakingly lovely prose, Woodson depicts home, family, friendship, loss. She shows the many prism-like facets of being a girl and the light that women can pour into one another. This was such a nuanced depiction of women and their sisterhood and spoke so clearly to the effects that rape culture and a loss of self-determination can have on the psyche of a woman. Woodson allows readers in – and in such a short work of fiction – her gripping story isn’t one you can leave easily behind.
Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
Ewing’s collection of poetry, fiction, and essays is a great multi-genre book for fans of speculative fiction in the vein of Octavia Butler and Alaya Dawn Johnson. Ewing does an incredible job of writing work that is playful and magical, while contemplating heavy subject matters like prejudice, beauty norms, and social justice. This book made me laugh out loud and ugly cry on a flight from Florida, and I didn’t even care that people could hear me sob and snort into my cranapple juice.
The Closest I've Come by Fred Aceves
I’m such a stan of this novel not only because the author’s last name is so similar to mine, but because Aceves has such a deft ear when it comes to getting the nuances of how folks speak and move and love onto the page. He also knows how to write joy, even when his characters are facing unimaginable circumstances, and that’s always worth a read. Plus, his main character, Marcos Rivas, is such a heartwarming hero as he searches for love; you’re cheering him on page after page.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
In this alternate history, post-Civil War novel, a badass 17-year-old has been trained to kill zombies and to defend herself, friends, family, and country in a battle against racism and the undead. All while being the most sarcastic and witty main character I’ve read in a long, long time. This book isn’t out until April, but I cannot stop talking about it! Or tweeting about it! I want to wrap this book in a blankie and, like Linus, carry it around with me for the rest of my life. That said, if you are a fan of The Walking Dead, historical fiction, and socio-political hot takes, this is a book for you. Even if you are not a fan of those things, this book is for you.