When you are put against a white background; when you are the only one from your ethnic group and nationality in any given space; when everybody feels entitled to strip you of your identity because for them it is open to their interpretation, that is when you get to know the depths of yourself.
The past four years have been a journey, not only academically but personally. I have lived between countries, languages, and communities that do not really know and understand each other. I have gone from transition to transition without having the time to process and reflect cause there is always something that has to be done. But now that I have graduated from my master’s, I finally have the time to hopefully settle into a rhythm.
My readings for this summer are intimately related to my identity, not the USian interpretation of it. I am a Hispanic Caribbean woman born and raised in Puerto Rico, fueled by fried plantains, mofongo, camarones, bomba, plena, salsa, y reguetón. So, during this summer, I will be reading -with a few exceptions- only Caribbean authors.
The Poet X: A Novel, by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo is the daughter of Dominican immigrants. Her debut novel The Poet X won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Pura Belpré Award. It is the story of a young Dominican-American girl, Xiomara Batista, who feels unheard and unhide-able in her neighborhood. Xiomara struggles with finding and embracing her identity while simultaneously wrestling with her parents’ expectations and her Mami’s Christian religion.
I am unhide-able.
Taller than even my father, with what Mami has always said
was “a little too much body for such a young girl.”
I am the baby fat that settled into D-cups and swinging hips
so that the boys who called me a whale in middle school
now ask me to send them pictures of myself in a thong.
–Unhide-able, p. 5
My parents probably wanted a girl who would sit in the pews
wearing pretty florals and a soft smile.
They got combat boots and a mouth silent
until it’s sharp as an island machete.
–Names, p. 8
I look at her scarred knuckles.
I know exactly how she was taught
–“Mami,” I Say to Her on the Walk Home, p. 17