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Discussion Questions

Xiomara was delivered via caesarean section fifty minutes after her twin brother, Xavier, was born. Discuss the symbolism of this scenario from Mami’s point of view .

The only pieces of prose in the novel are assignments that Xiomara has written for Ms. Galiano’s English class. Compare and contrast Xiomara’s prose style to her poetry style; what do the differences in style reveal about Xiomara’s personality?

Write a character sketch of Xiomara’s mother from the perspective of Caridad , Xiomara’s oldest friend. Focus on the elements of Mami’s character that Xiomara might find difficult to see.

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Home > City College > Dissertations and Theses > 907

Dissertations and Theses

Dissertations and Theses

Mira muchacha: the latinx bildungsroman in elizabeth acevedo’s the poet x.

Layza M. Garcia , CUNY City College

Date of Award

Document type, first advisor.

Lyn Di Iorio

Second Advisor

Pamela Laskin

Bildungsroman, The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo, Latinx, Young Adult, Spoken Word

This thesis explores how the Bildungsroman’s traditional narrative transforms into a window to the Latinx experience in Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. The traditional Bildungsroman features white, male, and European protagonists, according to Louis F. Caton in “Romantic Struggles: The Bildungsroman and Mother-Daughter Bonding in Jamaica Kinclad’s Annie John” (126). Recognized as the first work in the Bildungsroman genre, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1796) tracks the development and education of the protagonist from boyhood to manhood. In 20th and 21st century literature, the Bildungsroman structure expands to reflect the diverse cultures, lifestyles, and identities of its readers. Acevedo’s Bildungsroman/“coming-of-age” novel is centered on Xiomara Batista, a 15-year-old, Dominican-American teenager living in Harlem who discovers spoken word poetry as an outlet to navigate the world around her. Xiomara’s journey illustrates what some children of immigrants and Latinxs struggle with: the stress of dissonant family expectations and ill-fitting parent country traditions; the search for voice and individuality; and the conflict between blossoming sexual urges and the norms of old-fashioned parents. As the novel progresses, Xiomara responds to relatives and friends who help her have important realizations and also present obstacles to her development. This thesis ultimately explores three aspects of the book: Xiomara’s relationship with her tyrannical, pious mother; her awareness of her changing and maturing body and the effects of the male gaze on her psyche; and the evolution of her observations about her life from inner thoughts captured in a notebook to her performance of her poems at New York City’s Nuyorican Poets Café.

Recommended Citation

Garcia, Layza M., "Mira Muchacha: The Latinx Bildungsroman in Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X" (2021). CUNY Academic Works. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cc_etds_theses/907

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Themes in The Poet X

In this activity, activity overview, template and class instructions, more storyboard that activities.

  • This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

The Poet X Themes

Novels and poetry often have a variety of themes throughout that students can identify and analyze. Any literary elements can be conveyed through characters, setting, dialogue, plot, or a combination. In this activity, students will identify a theme of The Poet X and illustrate examples from the text. Students can explore by identifying these elements themselves or in an “ envelope activity ”, where they are given one or more to track throughout their reading. Then, they'll create a spider map illustrating what they found! Teachers may ask students to illustrate multiple examples of a single theme, symbol, or motif, or illustrate one example for each.

Examples of Themes in The Poet X

  • Coming of age
  • Dysfunctional family life and abuse
  • Poetry and the power of words
  • Sexist gender roles
  • Generation gap
  • Sexual harassment
  • Body shaming
  • Children of immigrant parents
  • Female empowerment
  • Courage and finding one's voice
  • Forgiveness and reconciliation

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Objective: Create a storyboard that identifies at lest one theme of The Poet X . Illustrate each and write a short description below each cell.

Student Instructions:

  • Identify the themes from the story that you wish to include and type them in the title box at the top.
  • Create an image for examples that represent each symbol using appropriate scenes, characters and items.
  • Write a description of each of the examples in the black text box.

3 Cell Spider Map

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-12

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric .)

Proficient Emerging Beginning

How To Teach Theme Using Storyboards

Discuss a prevalent theme.

Lead students in a discussion of a prevalent theme in The Poet X. Students need to find a lesson that the story teaches that they see played out throughout the book.

Help Students Find Examples

Students will need varying degrees of help in finding examples of the theme, and you can assist them by pointing out characters, setting, plot, and dialogue elements that will aid their awareness of theme.

Create a Storyboard

Frequently Asked Questions about Themes in the Poet X

Why is understanding theme important.

The theme of a story is what you learn about life after reading a story. Understanding theme is important, therefore, because it makes the connection between the story and the real life lessons for students.

What is the relationship between theme and motif?

A theme is the life lesson learned from reading a story, and a motif is a symbol that is used throughout a story that often illuminates the theme. Authors use motifs to make the point they are trying to make.

Poet X, The

The Poet X Characters

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by Elizabeth Acevedo

The poet x study guide.

Published in 2018, The Poet X is a young adult realistic fiction novel by Dominican-American poet and author Elizabeth Acevedo . The novel—specifically the protagonist Xiomara , who goes by "X"—draws on Acevedo's own experience growing up in New York City as the child of Dominican immigrants. Like the protagonist, Acevedo was raised Catholic (although she no longer practices the religion), so the book also underscores the tension Acevedo witnessed between her Catholic upbringing and her budding sexuality. Acevedo described the origins of the novel to PBS: "I was an eighth grade English teacher in Prince George's. I had about 150 young people in my space. And I realized that I had grown up loving poetry, loving performance poetry, and that they didn't have a reference point for that. Here's this thing I love that I think is really cool. Can I figure out a way to package this for young people? And that was the initial impetus."

The Poet X also draws heavily on Acevedo's love for slam poetry, a form of performance poetry that brings together poet-performers of different ages and backgrounds to share their work, which usually relates to social justice or other socio-political contemporary issues. Acevedo took part in her first "poetry slam" at age fourteen at New York City's Nuyorican Poets Café; X is fifteen and wants to get involved with slam poetry but fears her family's response.

The Poet X was released to critical acclaim and won several prestigious awards, including the Michael L. Printz Award, the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and the Pura Belpré Award. It was also a New York Times bestseller.

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The Poet X Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for The Poet X is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Which of the following quotes most clearly shows the author's attitude about church?

Are you providing the quotes?

What are 6 important events in order?

Are you asking for bullet points for one particular poem, or for bullet points using the collection?

poet x ''poem Ms.Galiano''

Sorry, what is acevedo?

Study Guide for The Poet X

The Poet X study guide contains a biography of Acevado, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About The Poet X
  • The Poet X Summary
  • Character List

Essays for The Poet X

The Poet X essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Poet X by Acevado.

  • Discovering Self Worth through Spoken Word in "The Poet X"
  • Elizabeth Acevedo’s Ode to Adolescent Power: Culture, Conflict, and Reassurance in The Poet X

thesis for poet x

thesis for poet x

Elizabeth Acevedo

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Theme Analysis

Sexuality and Shame Theme Icon

The Poet X follows 15-year-old Xiomara , a second-generation Dominican American living in Harlem. In part because of Xiomara’s upbringing in the Catholic Church and in part because of her family’s Dominican traditions, Xiomara’s sexual coming of age is something that she, as a curious and questioning teen, can’t ignore—but it’s something that disturbs her mother, Mami , and that Mami tries her hardest to squash. As Xiomara begins a romantic relationship with her lab partner, Aman , she must therefore try to reconcile what she hears about sex at home with her own desire for a physical relationship. Her family’s shame only makes Xiomara feel even more alone in the world; by comparing how she’s expected to behave with how her father, Papi , is allowed to behave, Xiomara recognizes that as a young woman, she can’t win. The novel thus makes it clear that shame, especially when it comes to one’s sexuality, encourages double standards and causes people to feel needlessly anxious, guilty, and insecure.

Since beginning to develop physically at age 11, Xiomara has had a difficult relationship with her body. She writes that her body seemed to develop out of nowhere and now, at age 15, Xiomara is taller than lots of boys and very curvy. While this is something that plenty of young women go through during puberty, Xiomara isn’t given any of the tools or the knowledge to understand her body—or, for that matter, to celebrate it. Instead, Xiomara wants to make herself small so that she can ignore the parts of her body that attract attention, and at home, Mami makes it very to clear to Xiomara that with a woman’s body, it is Xiomara’s responsibility to minimize her body’s importance and protect herself from unwanted advances. The one major event that solidified Xiomara’s belief that she needs to minimize her body came when she started menstruating. Xiomara knew that the “time of the month” was something that women experienced, but she had no idea what that meant and thus wasn’t prepared to deal with her own period. Then, when Xiomara purchased tampons and asked Mami for help about how to insert them properly, Mami slapped her and accused her of being sexually promiscuous. This event made Xiomara feel extremely ashamed of her body, thanks to the combination of not knowing what was happening and then being completely blindsided by Mami’s reaction when she did figure it out. This incident reflects Mami’s belief that Xiomara’s growing body, and later Xiomara’s budding sexuality, is something to be controlled by Mami, not by Xiomara herself.

In addition to being made to feel as though she has no agency over her body or sexuality, Xiomara is told again and again that when men catcall her, it’s her fault and she needs to stop it. However, Xiomara recognizes that men speak crudely to her regardless of what she’s wearing, saying, or doing. Especially considering how Xiomara sees that men—especially her own father, Papi—are treated and spoken about in terms of their sexuality, Xiomara is reminded constantly that she and other women have little say over what happens to their bodies. In his younger years—that is, before Xiomara and Twin were born—Papi was a known philanderer who drank in bars, slept with many women, and inappropriately touched others. Yet Xiomara recognizes that Mami scolds and punishes her for not being able to deflect the advances of the next generation of men like Papi. In effect, Mami excuses the actions of men like Papi and the drug dealers who catcall Xiomara to instead pin the blame on these men’s female targets.

Xiomara encapsulates her understanding of this double standard when she explains the word cuero , which is the Dominican slang term for a promiscuous woman. She notes that the term can be applied to quite literally any woman who, for any reason or no reason, seems inappropriately sexual. No such term exists for men, even if there’s clear evidence of sexual activity or desire. Through this term, Xiomara is further conditioned to believe that female sexuality isn’t okay under any circumstances, while male sexuality is something that’s not only acceptable, but even celebrated.

All of this becomes extremely difficult for Xiomara to make sense of when she begins to spend time with her lab partner, Aman, and finds herself wanting to experiment sexually with him. Because of what Xiomara has been told at home about kissing and sex, she wonders if even being curious is a horrible crime, and this makes her feel even more conflicted about her relationship with Aman. Because of the shame that Xiomara feels about her body and her desire to experiment, she struggles to genuinely enjoy things with Aman, especially after the fact. With this, the novel shows clearly how shame can rob individuals of pleasure. However, Xiomara also writes that Aman makes her body, which she usually feels is too big and too sexy no matter what she does, feel good and like something she should be proud of. This realization, combined with Xiomara’s questioning of why kissing, masturbating, and other sexual contact is so bad if it feels good, ultimately leads her to begin rejecting Mami’s teachings about sex and bodies. By questioning the shameful attitudes towards sex that she has been taught, Xiomara is able to begin putting together her own understanding of how to conduct herself in a sexual relationship.

Importantly, once Xiomara begins to shrug off some of the shame that she connects to her body and her sexuality (and after Mami burns her poetry notebook , which destroys Xiomara’s trust in Mami and her beliefs), Xiomara begins to feel more confident in a number of other ways. She even agrees to open up a conversation with Mami about their relationship. Though the novel ties Xiomara’s shame most clearly to sex, it also suggests that shame about anything can make a person less confident overall. On the other hand, developing confidence, self-respect, and the courage to make one’s own decisions gives a person the tools to let go of their shame, and in turn lead a happier and less anxious life.

Sexuality and Shame ThemeTracker

The Poet X PDF

Sexuality and Shame Quotes in The Poet X

The other girls call me conceited. Ho. Thot. Fast. When your body takes up more room than your voice you are always the target of well-aimed rumors, which is why I let my knuckles talk for me. Which is why I learned to shrug when my name was replaced by insults.

Religion and Coming of Age Theme Icon

And I get all this attention from guys but it’s like a sancocho of emotions.

This stew of mixed-up ingredients: partly flattered they think I’m attractive, partly scared they’re only interested in my ass and boobs, and a good measure of Mami-will-kill-me fear sprinkled on top.

thesis for poet x

What if I like a boy too much and none of those things happen... they’re the only scales I have.

How does a girl like me figure out the weight of what it means to love a boy?

“Good girls don’t wear tampones. Are you still a virgin? Are you having relations?”

I didn’t know how to answer her, I could only cry. She shook her head and told me to skip church that day. Threw away the box of tampons, saying they were for cueros. That she would buy me pads. Said eleven was too young. That she would pray on my behalf.

I didn’t understand what she was saying. But I stopped crying. I licked at my split lip. I prayed for the bleeding to stop.

And I knew then what I’d known since my period came: my body was trouble. I had to pray the trouble out of the body God gave me. My body was a problem. And I didn’t want any of these boys to be the ones to solve it. I wanted to forget I had this body at all.

He grins at me and shrugs. “I came here and practiced a lot. My pops never wanted to put me in classes. Said it was too soft.”

And now his smile is a little sad. And I think about all the things we could be if we were never told our bodies were not built for them.

I don’t yell how the whole block whispers when I walk down the street about all the women who made a cuero out of him.

But men are never called cueros.

I’ll be anything that makes sense of this panic. I’ll loosen myself from this painful flesh.

See, a cuero is any skin. A cuero is just a covering. A cuero is a loose thing. Tied down by no one. Fluttering and waving in the wind. Flying. Flying. Gone.

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COMMENTS

  1. The Poet X Themes

    The Poet X follows 15-year-old Xiomara, a second-generation Dominican American living in Harlem.In part because of Xiomara's upbringing in the Catholic Church and in part because of her family's Dominican traditions, Xiomara's sexual coming of age is something that she, as a curious and questioning teen, can't ignore—but it's something that disturbs her mother, Mami, and that Mami ...

  2. Mira Muchacha: The Latinx Bildungsroman in Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X

    The Poet X . Abstract: This thesis explores how the Bildungsroman's traditional narrative transforms into a window to the Latinx experience in Elizabeth Acevedo's . The Poet X. The traditional Bildungsroman features white, male, and European protagonists, according to Louis F. Caton in "Romantic Struggles: The . Bildungsroman

  3. The Poet X Themes

    The Poet X essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Poet X by Acevado. The Poet X study guide contains a biography of Acevado, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  4. The Poet X Study Guide

    The Poet X joins the growing genre of verse novels for young adults including by Kwame Alexander and by Sharon Creech. Though verse narratives and epic poems like the Odyssey and the Epic of Gilgamesh have existed for millennia, the verse novel is distinctly modern and traces its roots to the early 1800s. A famous early example is Eugene Onegin ...

  5. The Poet X Summary

    The Poet X Summary. Xiomara is a fifteen-year-old Dominican-American girl living in Harlem with her twin brother Xavier (she calls him "Twin"), her indifferent Papi, and her religious and strict Mami. She grapples with normal teenage-girl issues, such as her identity, her body, boys, and questions regarding religion.

  6. The Poet X Analysis

    The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo, is a profound, delightful, and moving novel about a girl's coming-of-age experience. The protagonist, Xiomara Batista, navigates growing up as a thoughtful and ...

  7. The Poet X Themes

    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 ...

  8. The Poet X Essays

    The Poet X. In Elizabeth Acevedo's young adult novel, The Poet X, fifteen-year old Dominican-American Xiomara Batista describes her aspirations and personal life experiences in the form of poetic verse. Through her narration the reader learns that Xiomara's... The Poet X essays are academic essays for citation.

  9. The Poet X Summary and Study Guide

    Elizabeth Acevedo's award-winning 2018 young adult novel, The Poet X, brings to life the inner world of protagonist Xiomara Batista. Xiomara is 15 years old, and from her bedroom in Harlem, she writes poetry in order to put on the page all the feelings and ideas she cannot seem to be able to say out loud. Xiomara resigns herself to writing in ...

  10. Themes from The Poet X

    The Poet X is the story of Xiomara 's coming-of-age. Her mother and father didn't think they could have children, so from her birth, Xiomara and her twin brother were given the burden of being "miracles.". Xiomara is raised to believe she needs to prove her worth for simply being alive. Her family, particularly her mother, is devoutly ...

  11. The Power of Language Theme in The Poet X

    Themes and Colors. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Poet X, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Because The Poet X is set up to read as Xiomara 's private poetry notebook, language and its power rise to the forefront almost immediately. Xiomara notes early on that her notebook is the only place ...

  12. The Poet X Themes

    Thanks for exploring this SuperSummary Study Guide of "The Poet X" by Elizabeth Acevedo. A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

  13. The Poet X Essay Topics

    Thanks for exploring this SuperSummary Study Guide of "The Poet X" by Elizabeth Acevedo. A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

  14. Mira Muchacha: The Latinx Bildungsroman in Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X

    This thesis explores how the Bildungsroman's traditional narrative transforms into a window to the Latinx experience in Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X. The traditional Bildungsroman features white, male, and European protagonists, according to Louis F. Caton in "Romantic Struggles: The Bildungsroman and Mother-Daughter Bonding in Jamaica Kinclad's Annie John" (126).

  15. The Poet X Essay

    Join Now Log in Home Literature Essays The Poet X Discovering Self Worth through Spoken Word in "The Poet X" The Poet X Discovering Self Worth through Spoken Word in "The Poet X" Olivia F. Vega 11th Grade In Elizabeth Acevedo's young adult novel, The Poet X, fifteen-year old Dominican-American Xiomara Batista describes her aspirations and personal life experiences in the form of poetic verse.

  16. The Poet X Theme Analysis

    Objective: Create a storyboard that identifies at lest one theme of The Poet X. Illustrate each and write a short description below each cell. Student Instructions: Identify the themes from the story that you wish to include and type them in the title box at the top. Create an image for examples that represent each symbol using appropriate ...

  17. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo Plot Summary

    The Poet X Summary. Next. Part I. 15-year-old Xiomara sits on the stoop of her building in Harlem in the last week before school starts. Even the drug dealers seem more pleasant as they catcall her. Xiomara sneaks back upstairs before Mami gets home from work. Xiomara explains that she's tall, curvy, and gets a lot of attention on the street ...

  18. The Poet X Literary Elements

    Essays for The Poet X. The Poet X essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Poet X by Acevado. Discovering Self Worth through Spoken Word in "The Poet X" Elizabeth Acevedo's Ode to Adolescent Power: Culture, Conflict, and Reassurance in The Poet X

  19. The Poet X Study Guide

    Published in 2018, The Poet X is a young adult realistic fiction novel by Dominican-American poet and author Elizabeth Acevedo.The novel—specifically the protagonist Xiomara, who goes by "X"—draws on Acevedo's own experience growing up in New York City as the child of Dominican immigrants.Like the protagonist, Acevedo was raised Catholic (although she no longer practices the religion), so ...

  20. Sexuality and Shame Theme in The Poet X

    The Poet X follows 15-year-old Xiomara, a second-generation Dominican American living in Harlem.In part because of Xiomara's upbringing in the Catholic Church and in part because of her family's Dominican traditions, Xiomara's sexual coming of age is something that she, as a curious and questioning teen, can't ignore—but it's something that disturbs her mother, Mami, and that Mami ...