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Elizabeth Acevedo's "The Poet X" brings to light the beauty and nuances of teenage Afro-Latinx experiences.

By Ruby Mora Literature was a pivotal part of my upbringing. My mother read books to me and planted this love early on in my life. I read mostly young adult fiction and poetry in high school, but I’ve realized over the last five years or so that most of the YA literature I grew up reading was not only written primarily by white authors, but also had main characters that were white, and if there were people of color, they ended up being severely stereotypical sidekicks to the main characters. Even years after my time in high school, the lack of work written by marginalized voices in the literary world is still an unfortunate trend, but there has been a progressive movement, especially in 2017 and this year, where there were many significant works released by women authors of color: “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado, “Peluda” by Melissa Lozada-Oliva, and “Don’t Call Us Dead” by Danez Smith, just to name a few. One book, specifically a novel-in-verse, and its March release is already sparking such progressive changes in the literary world. “The Poet X” by author and immaculate poet Elizabeth Acevedo provides a unique form of storytelling through poetry, while centering the story around Xiomara Batista, a Dominican teen living in Harlem who processes her surroundings and occurences within her family and outside of it through poetry, in an environment where she states she feels unseen and unheard. 

The work isn’t to ask more from Rupi Kaur. The work is to read broadly and deeply from progressive South Asians.

By Sagaree Jain In the weeks surrounding the release of Rupi Kaur’s second book, it became virtually impossible to have a conversation of any extended length without discussing her. For me, a Punjabi American woman with ties to progressive South Asian organizing and racial justice oriented poetry communities, Rupi Kaur began to shadow my life with a certain inevitability. I could only go so long, among new and old friends, before a joke would be made, or a meme would be referenced, and then off we went, discussing Rupi Kaur for the third time that week. I think many South Asians in the US and Canada, especially South Asians with strong commitments to feminism and movements for justice, have been deeply split on how to think about Kaur and her poetry. On one hand, seeing Kaur’s face in the Style section of The New York Times when so many of us are aching for representation of our stories is undeniably moving. And Kaur comes from a history many of us resonate with, and she speaks sometimes on the alienation of moving to the US when she was four, growing up in a Punjabi speaking home, and knowing that her family escaped the 1984 Sikh Genocide in India. The way her poetry resonates with young women, young brown women especially, is beautiful, a joy to watch. But on the other hand, there’s something immovably frustrating about what she has come to represent. Kaur’s work puts forward her experiences in simple bites, with a minimal range of theme and concept. The most popular pieces resonate with white women as easily as they do with women of color, and for a woman internet-famous for posting menstruation blood on Instagram, her public persona is very much apolitical. On the Poetry Foundation, Kazim Ali writes that Kaur’s verses “identify; they do not interrogate.” On Buzzfeed, Chiara Giovanni critiques the homogeneity of her depiction of South Asian women. As Kaur builds momentum, commentators from South Asian traditions ask, dismayed, is this really all an American public wants from us?
Related: 10 Reasons Why You Need Rupi Kaur's Poetry In Your Life

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