Meet Carnegie Medal’s First Writer of Color, Elizabeth Acevedo

Acevedo was all too familiar with the lack of diverse representation in media. But this absence didn’t fully occur to her until she heard it from her student. Only then did it fully strike her to share her own story…

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Poet Elizabeth Acevedo earned the UK’s award for children’s books for her novel, The Poet X. As a former teacher, she found inspiration for her novel from one of her students.

Acevedo used to teach 8th grade English in Maryland, and it was there that she found inspiration for her prizewinning debut. The fact is, most YA novels are written by adult authors rather than teen writers, and it makes sense that young adult students would know how to tell their stories. The Guardian revealed in a profile that it was Acevedo’s student, Katherine, who gave her the idea for her history-making novel:

 

Katherine wouldn’t read any of the books Acevedo offered her, telling her: ‘None of these books are about us.’

So Acevedo set out to write ‘a story that sounds like and depicts the same kind of neighborhood’ she and her students are from.

 

Born to Dominican immigrants, Acevedo was all too familiar with the lack of diverse representation in media. But this absence didn’t fully occur to her until she heard it from her student. Only then did it fully strike her to share her own story, and the stories of many others. That passion became the novel The Poet X.

 

Image via Amazon

 

The verse novel takes place in Harlem, and it follows the character Xiomara Batista, a quiet-but-tough young woman who “lets her fists and her fierceness do the talking.” Xiomara’s passion and words find a home when she joins her school’s slam poetry club, even though her mother and her religion tell her it’s best to keep quiet…”because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

 

 

In her The Guardian profile, Acevedo revealed how she developed Xiomara’s personality:

 

It would be easy to forget all the things she’s thinking, things she won’t say. I wanted to be really close to those feelings and show the everyday magic and beauty that quiet folks can hold.

 

Related image

Author and Slam Poet, Elizabeth Acevedo | Image via Wikipedia

 

The novel inspires young women to speak their minds and shows all people of color that their words do matter, that they ought to have a place in the world. With her incredible win as the first writer of color in the Carnegie Medal’s eighty-three-year history, her poetic words have been recognized ten-fold. Hopefully the future is filled with more wonderful diversity like this.

 

 

Featured Image via VP Wright