22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Elizabeth Acevedo

Portrait Elizabeth Acevedo
© Hartwig Klappert

The poet and children’s book author Elizabeth Acevedo was born in New York as the daughter of Dominican immigrants. Her childhood was influenced by the tradition of oral storytelling; she later joined a high school poetry club, where she discovered a way to articulate her thoughts and be heard when talking about race, gender, and culture. At a young age, she recognized the need to write against the widespread narrative that had once excluded people of color. She found this to be especially important with regard to children’s books. »Communities of color [are] reading. We’re just not reading stories about us because there aren’t enough out there.« This situation is gradually changing with a new generation of authors and many initiatives such as the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, which advocates for a broader ethnic spectrum in children’s and youth literature.
Acevedo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from George Washington University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland. She taught at a school in Prince Georgeʼs County, Maryland, for several years. Following the publication of the poetry collection »Beastgirl and Other Origin Myths«, in which she breaks down historical, mythological, and gender-specific aspects of the first generation of immigrants, in 2018 she published her verse novel »The Poet X«, which became a »New York Times« bestseller: Xiomara, a young Afro-Latina girl in Harlem, struggles with her physical changes, her mother’s devoutness, her relationship with her twin brother, and the experience of first love. She desperately searches for an outlet for her frustration and emotions and entrusts her feelings to the pages of a notebook. Although Xiomara understands that it would be better for her to keep her thoughts to herself, she looks for a way to make her texts heard in her school’s Slam Poetry Club, against the will of her mother, who would rather see her daughter in church. Acevedo’s newest novel »With the Fire on High«, published in 2019, is about the pregnant teenager Emoni Santiago, who lives in Philadelphia and dreams of pursuing her talents in the kitchen.
Acevedo was National Poetry Slam Champion as well as a CantoMundo and Cave Canem fellow. Her poems have appeared in »Poetry«, »Puerto Del Sol«, »Callaloo«, and »The Notre Dame Review«. Her novel »The Poet X« won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2018, the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, the Walter Dean Myers Award for outstanding children’s literature in the Teen category, the National Book Award for youth literature, and the Michael L. Printz Award in 2019. The author lives in Washington.