Capitol Hill Just Congratulated YA Writer Elizabeth Acevedo For Her Accomplishments And Contributions To Latinidad
As the literary world becomes more inclusive, we are hearing from fresh voices who are sharing experiences that marginalized people have long endured but have never seen represented before. If this year’s Carnegie Medal winner is any indication, these voices are finally being celebrated by the literary world for the power they speak.
The 2019 Carnegie Medal has been awarded to Dominican-American slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
This is the first time in the prestigious award’s 83 years that a writer of color has been the honoree.
The UK’s Carnegie Medal is an esteemed award for works of children’s and young adult’s literature. It was founded in 1936 and named after Scottish-American businessman, Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was responsible for founding over 2,800 libraries in the English-speaking world.
Acevedo was awarded the Carnegie Medal at the June 18, 2019 ceremony for her debut novel, “The Poet X.” The book utilizes Acevedo’s poetry skills as she tells the story of shy 15-year-old Xiomara. In the book, the young Dominicana joins a slam poetry club at her school. As a result, Xiomara gradually opens up to the world and shares her own powerful voice.
Chosen by a panel of a dozen of children’s librarians, Acevedo and her “Poet X” received high praise by judges.
Judges of this year’s awards called “The Poet X” “a searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family, and faith within a truly innovative verse structure.” They add that the book’s protagonist “comes to life on every page and shows the reader how girls and women can learn to inhabit, and love, their own skin.”
This is a sentiment echoed by the other accolades “The Poet X” has been awarded since its publication. At the 2019 Youth Media Awards, the book won the Michael Printz Award for best young adult literature. Additionally, “The Poet X” won the Pura Belpré award. This prize honors the Latina writer who best portrayed the Latinx experience for children in their work each year.
It’s that concept in particular that encouraged Avecedo to write “The Poet X.”
Before she was a writer, Avecedo was an 8th-grade school teacher in Maryland. It was while teaching that one of her students gave her the desire to write. The student kept rejecting the books Avecedo suggested she read. According to the writer, the girl said she couldn’t read any of them because “none of these books are about us.”
Consequently, this drove Avecedo to write a story that reflects the sights, sounds, and people of her neighborhood. In doing so, she succeeds in creating a book that gives a voice to “all the little sisters yearning to see themselves” — just as she hoped in the book’s dedication. Undoubtedly, it is this sort of literature — the kind that validates depreciated identities — that we need to see so much more of.
Once news of Avecedo’s win reached the Internet, Twitter came alive with congratulations for the Dominicana.
This Twitter user pointed out that seeing Avecedo win inspires a huge sense of pride for the Dominican Republic and the Latinidad. Since we all win when one of us wins, it almost feels as if a prima or amiga is being honored.
Avecedo was even congratulated on Capital Hill for her history-making win.
New York Representative Adriano Espaillat applauded the writer for her win as well as for her role as a teacher. As Rep. Espaillat explained, Avecedo saw a need for diversity in her school’s English curriculum and she created the change herself. The world would be a more beautiful place if more of us also created the change we need.
Some well-wishers simply expressed how much they love Avecedo’s literary voice.
This Twitter user joked that Avecedo is such a good writer, that she’d even listen to her read appliance manuals. Between “The Poet X” and her second novel, “The Fire On High,” we’re total fans of Avecedo so we can relate.
This win will forever be a part of history and — as such — so will this Dominicana’s voice. Here’s to Avecedo’s victory, breaking barriers and making the world into what we need it to be.