Elizabeth Acevedo: the poet that changed my life

I judge books by their covers. Shamelessly. The thread-bound blocks of paper are each a contestant, my eyes the harsh critics. To Read Or Not To Read? That is the question. 

Elizabeth Acevedo is an award-winning, Dominican-American novelist and poet. Famous for her spoken word performances and young adult novels, Acevedo tells intricate stories of her heritage and the world at large, her words of wisdom carried by a riveting rhythm.

Born and raised in New York City, she began writing as a teenager and published her debut novel, The Poet X, in 2008. This beautiful narration of a young, conflict-surrounded poet was followed by Clap When You Land, a poetic jewel, in 2021.

A Groundbreaking Departure

Airplanes. Large, pressurized vessels of bursting personalities and complex emotions, soaring through space and time. Flying, feeling indomitable, until everything comes to a screeching halt.

Steel meets earth at the speed of light. Family members are buried, memories are lost, and unimaginable amounts of pain are inflicted. How does one endure all of this damage? What comes of all the newly uncovered secrets?

Acevedo’s “Clap When You Land” tells a triumphant, perspective-shifting story of grief, distance, and friendship. The novel takes readers through extreme motions after two Dominican half-sisters, Camino and Yahira, lose their father in a plane crash. 

Camino, a teenage girl from the Dominican Republic, lives by the seaside with her Tía. Her mother died at a young age, and the loss of her father’s financial support challenges her dreams of studying medicine in the US. Yahira, a few years younger than Camino, grew up in New York. She has spent more time with her father, and is determined to understand the secrets of her family.

The two, initially unaware of each other’s existence, go on a life-changing quest to meet, and ultimately navigate a newfound, unkind world together. 

Acevedo portrays the distinct personalities and the challenges they face in striking lines of free verse, and the stanzas build gracefully atop each other.

Vigorously, Acevedo pulls on heartstrings as she tells the intricate tale of blood-bound strangers. She delivers nothing short of perfect, immersing the reader in the inextricable stories.  

Acevedo’s writing style will forever have a hold on me. Her free verse, ever so dainty and gentle, flows perfectly. Then, the words come to life and hit you like a brick. 

Reading “Clap When You Land” feels like listening in on a feverish payphone call. You forget why you entered the phone booth in the first place, drop your quarter down the grates, and buckle in for all that is to come. 

This novel, there’s nothing like it. It’s made me cry multiple times, and is home to some of my favorite poems of all time. I have so many pictures of its pages in my phone- enough to get me arrested. I annotated that thing vigorously, read and re-read. 

In simple terms, this book wins. It’s like no other, and has yet to leave my head.

Earlier this year, Acevedo revealed the production of a Clap When You Land TV series, leading to some intense casting predictions on the internet. Isabela Merced as Camino? Skai Jackson as Yahira?? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Deployment And Acetone

Upon reading “Clap When You Land,” I went down a rabbit hole of Acevedo’s other works, and found an incredible spoken word piece, You Mean You Don’t Weep At The Nail Salon?

To work from home is a blessing, isn’t it? There are people that risk their lives for a living, people that spend their every hour on others.

Despite this luxury, feelings of isolation loom over you as you sit with your laptop at the dining table. You wish for nothing more than a person, someone to give your heart out to. This piece highlights the beauty of small interactions and the value of a stranger’s gesture.

With irrevocable passion, Acevedo travels through the themes of gratitude and loneliness, until she finally reaches a state of much needed connection. 

Acevedo’s voice is one of cogency, striking and beautiful. It shines as she drives a powerful message home. She never fails to carry herself well, raising an ear with her every word.

Elizabeth Acevedo. A poet, a performer, a wizard. An author that has taken this world by storm.

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