Author Archives: Stefanny Leung Yu

Song Choice For “The Poet X”

A young Black woman who has been fighting for control of her body and situation, and how she feels about religion. Being able to communicate while also feeling comfortable, secure, and confident about your needs and wants is what it means to have a voice. In The Poet X, author Elizabeth Acevedo provides readers a message of inspiration for accepting oneself. The novel conveys several significant themes that many of us find difficult to conquer while yet being incredibly relatable in many ways. The whole novel somehow reminds me of the Disney movie, Frozen. When Elsa has been trying to control her power. Women are frequently judged based on how they look. This is what Xiomara is going through as she transitions into her adult body and often receives disgraceful comments. She loses hope that she would ever find love, let alone fall in love. Xiomara is harassed frequently by males of various ages, and she becomes so enraged with her harassers that she has to defend herself physically. There is a strong connection between this theme and the song “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel from Frozen, which is perhaps the most loved and best remembered.

Recording of the song on Youtube

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight

Not a footprint to be seen

A kingdom of isolation

And it looks like I’m the queen

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside

Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried!

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see

Be the good girl you always have to be

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know

Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go

Can’t hold it back anymore

Let it go, let it go

Turn away and slam the door!

I don’t care

What they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway!

It’s funny how some distance

Makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me

Can’t get to me at all!

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!

Let it go, let it go

I am one with the wind and sky

Let it go, let it go

You’ll never see me cry!

Here I stand

And here I’ll stay

Let the storm rage on!

My power flurries through the air into the ground

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

I’m never going back

The past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone!

Here I stand

In the light of day

Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway!


Xiomara can express herself more through poetry, and so can Elsa when she lets all her power out and starts singing Let It Go. When Xiomara doesn’t strictly adhere to Mami’s regulations, Mami will hit her. Xiomara’s family life is wildly dysfunctional and occasionally incredibly brutal. Even though Papi is around, Xiomara claims that he is hardly present in their home. Xiomara and Twin feel pressured to keep their sadness a secret in their oppressive home. All of this is a result of cultural and familial expectations that have made life tough for everyone for at least two generations. This is how The Poet X criticizes parents with unreasonable or improper expectations of their kids and demonstrates how, if those expectations aren’t questioned, they can lead to conflict and misery. Likewise, Elsa’s parents were strictly forcing her to hide her power. However, when Xiomara starts expressing herself more through poetry, she finds a way to be away from the struggles that she deals with- letting go of expectations (Xiomara) and the power she holds (Elsa).

“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo

Question #1: Her friends, brother, and boyfriend influence her personal struggle. What effect do relationships have on one’s identity, and how does it help find it?  

Question #2: As a result of her mother’s clumsy management of Xiomara’s first period, Xiomara learned to associate her own body with intense feelings of shame. Did her mother, in a certain way, cause Xiomara to have shame and struggle with her body? If so, why?

Question #3: Xiomara’s mother is characterized as an unhealthy parent figure who does not have a satisfying life and expects strict piety from her daughter, mostly because she wants to make up for what she cannot do, but Xiomara rejects them. In what ways do these traits complicate mother-daughter relationships?

Question #4: Poetry helps her find her voice and gives her the confidence she needs. It all begins when Xiomara’s English teacher invites her to the poetry club. How is Ms. Galiano a heroine in Xiomara’s life? Or what does she represent in Xiomara’s life?

Quotes

“You will learn to hate it / No one, not even your twin brother / will understand the burden / you feel because of your birth; / your mother has sight for nothing / but you two and God; / your father seems to be serving / a penance, an oath of solitary silence. / Their gazes and words / are heavy with all the things / they want you to be. / It is ungrateful to feel like a burden. / It is ungrateful to resent my own birth. / I know that Twin and I are miracles. / Aren’t we reminded every single day?” (Acevedo, 21).

As the young daughter of conservatively devout older immigrants, it makes her feel pressure. When she is with her parents, she feels she is prevented from following her own path in life and from being herself since they desire things for her that she may not really want or comprehend. Additionally, Xiomara’s parents think her birth was a miracle, which only increases the pressure on her to be someone she is not. In comparison, Twin is the opposite as she considers him a genius and does so well in school, earning scholarships, and is a devout Catholic.

“This was the first time someone gave me a place to collect my thoughts. In some ways, it seemed like he was saying that my thoughts were important. From that day forward I’ve written every single day. Sometimes it seems like writing is the only way I keep from hurting” (Acevedo, 41).

Words matter to her, and expressing them through poems has been nothing but a relief for her. In order to cope with the pain and hardship she encounters while trying to transform into the young woman she so desperately wants to be, Xiomara turns to poetry for solace, to find her voice, and to create something beautiful. Poetry becomes life-changing for Xiomara and strengthens herself, which eventually she develops as a person.

“Challenger Deep” by Neal Shusterman

I think this book has something special for me as a reader with its beautiful metaphor and portraying many important topics of mental health. In his metaphorical dream world, Caden lives on a ship with a cast of bizarre individuals. His parents arrange for him to receive treatment in a mental hospital, where he battles his sickness but eventually beats it. The author conveys what it is like to struggle with mental illness through Caden’s story and literary strategies including rhyme, metaphors, and personification. In both the book and real life, one of the worst aspects of having a mental illness is that a person may not exhibit symptoms that are visible to others if they are experiencing major internal difficulties. 

This book, which tackles a challenging subject, offers a soberingly in-depth look into the field of mental health and what it’s like to have schizophrenia. This book’s writing style, particularly the absence of transitions that make the reader experience the character’s choppy speech and sense of disorientation. It reminds me of the song “Dancing With The Devil” by Demi Lovato.

Recording of the song on Youtube:

It’s just a little red wine, I’ll be fine

Not like I wanna do this every night

I’ve been good, don’t I deserve it?

I think I earned it, feels like it’s worth it

In my mind, mind

Twisted reality, hopeless insanity

I told you I was okay but I was lying

I was dancing with the devil, out of control

Almost made it to heaven, it was closer than you know

Playing with the enemy, gambling with my soul

It’s so hard to say no, when you’re dancing with the devil

It’s just a little white line, I’ll be fine

But soon that little white line is a little glass pipe

Tinfoil remedy, almost got the best of me

I keep praying I don’t reach the end of my lifetime

Twisted reality, hopeless insanity

I told you I was okay but I was lying

I was dancing with the devil, out of control

Almost made it to heaven, it was closer than you know

Playing with the enemy, gambling with my soul

It’s so hard to say no, when you’re dancing with the devil

Thought I knew my limit, yeah

I thought that I could quit it, yeah

I thought that I could walk away easily

But here I am falling down on my knees

Praying for better days

To come and wash this pain away

Could you please forgive me?

Lord, I’m sorry for dancing with the devil

Dancing with the devil, out of control

Almost made it to heaven, it was closer than you know

Playing with the enemy, gambling with my soul

It’s so hard to say no, when you’re dancing with the devil

Lovato is a wonderful figure and a strong supporter of mental health. She uses music to “communicate” about her struggles with various mental health conditions. “Dancing With The Devil” has been one of the many strong mental health songs that tell what it is like to go through the process, especially when one’s having an episode. In this case, Caden’s mental illness or illnesses show a variety of symptoms in the real world. really quite a lot. He is coping with several symptoms rather than simply one one. A line that Caden says, “I have never ditched school. Leaving school without permission gets you detention or worse. I’m not that kind of kid. But what choice do I have now? The signs are there. Everywhere, all around me. I know it’s going to happen. I know it will be bad. I don’t know what it’s going to be or what direction it’s going to come from, but I know it will bring misery and tears and pain.” (p__) His words are clear enough to know how complicated schizophrenia is. This complex symptom is characterized by disturbances in thinking, feeling, and reality perception. This is linked to Lovato’s lyrics every time when she sings dance with the devil because Caden is actually dancing with this complex mental illness. The chorus literally depicts Caden’s feeling:

I was dancing with the devil, out of control

Almost made it to heaven, it was closer than you know

Playing with the enemy, gambling with my soul

It’s so hard to say no, when you’re dancing with the devil

Sometimes people who deal with this don’t get any better because it’s hard to fully recover when one’s living into two different worlds and eventually end up badly. The main action of the novel is carried out in Caden’s thoughts as he wanders through the environment around him, including his home, school, and eventually a mental hospital. To catch Caden’s shifting perceptions and quick thinking. He eventually ends up in the hospital just like when the singer, Lovato, also did as it happened in real life and on the music video. 

Blogging Assignment #2: The Hate U Give By Angie Thomas

The song “Freedom” by Beyonce feat. Kendrick Lamar is linked to the challenges and distinctive qualities of African-Americans. The song is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Beyonce’s voice emphasizes female empowerment, while the initial focus of Kendrick Lamar’s verse is on the difficulties that Black men in America confront, including racial profiling and the possibility of being murdered. He later acknowledges his “mom,” who could be either his mother or his lover. In essence, he is advising her to maintain her composure and positive outlook despite whatever may happen to him. 

Recording of the song on Youtube

Tryna rain, tryna rain on the thunder

Tell the storm I’m new

I’ma walk, I’ma march on the regular

Painting white flags blue

Lord, forgive me, I’ve been running

Running blind in truth

I’ma rain, I’ma rain on this bitter love

Tell the sweet I’m new

I’m telling these tears, “Go and fall away, fall away,” oh

May the last one burn into flames

Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move

Freedom, cut me loose! Yeah

Freedom! Freedom! Where are you?

‘Cause I need freedom, too!

I break chains all by myself

Won’t let my freedom rot in hell

Hey! I’ma keep running

‘Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves

I’ma wade, I’ma wave through the waters

Tell the tide, “Don’t move”

I’ma riot, I’ma riot through your borders

Call me bulletproof

Lord, forgive me, I’ve been runnin’

Runnin’ blind in truth

I’ma wade, I’ma wave through your shallow love

Tell the deep I’m new

I’m telling these tears, “Go and fall away, fall away,” oh

May the last one burn into flames

Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move

Freedom, cut me loose!

Freedom! Freedom! Where are you?

‘Cause I need freedom, too!

I break chains all by myself

Won’t let my freedom rot in hell

Hey! I’ma keep running

‘Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves

Ten Hail Marys, I meditate for practice

Channel 9 news tell me I’m movin’ backwards

Eight blocks left, death is around the corner

Seven misleadin’ statements ’bout my persona

Six headlights wavin’ in my direction (Come on)

Five-O askin’ me what’s in my possession

Yeah, I keep runnin’, jump in the aqueducts

Fire hydrants and hazardous

Smoke alarms on the back of us

But mama, don’t cry for me, ride for me

Try for me, live for me

Breathe for me, sing for me

Honestly guidin’ me

I could be more than I gotta be

Stole from me, lied to me, nation hypocrisy

Code on me, drive on me

Wicked, my spirit inspired me, like yeah

Open correctional gates in higher desert (Yeah)

Open our mind as we cast away oppression (Yeah)

Open the streets and watch our beliefs

And when they carve my name inside the concrete

I pray it forever reads

Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move

Freedom, cut me loose!

Freedom! Freedom! Where are you?

‘Cause I need freedom, too!

I break chains all by myself

Won’t let my freedom rot in hell

Hey! I’ma keep running

‘Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves

What you want from me?

Is it truth you seek? Oh, father, can you hear me?

What you want from me?

Is it truth you seek? Oh, father, can you hear me?

Hear me out

I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade

The Hate U Give depicts many critical social issues that many people of color, unfortunately, are still dealing with in today’s day. Racial injustice should not be tolerated, and neither discrimination and violence toward communities of color. In the rising action, when Khalil is shot three times in the back by One-Fifteen, Khalil falls to the ground as Starr stares in terror as her friend spouts blood. As he passes away, she sprints from the car to his side. She is told not to move, and 115 aims a gun at her. His death is bloody, brutal, and pointless. The intensity of 115 is demonstrated by the fact that he immediately aims a gun at Starr. The chorus of this song speaks the most powerful part that highlights Thomas’s message:

Freedom

Freedom

I can’t move

Freedom, cut me loose

Singin’, freedom

Freedom

Where are you?

‘Cause I need freedom, too

I break chains all by myself

Won’t let my freedom rot in hell

Hey! I’ma keep running

‘Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves

“’Everybody wants to talk about how Khalil died,’” I say. “’But this isn’t about how Khalil died. It’s about the fact that he lived. His life mattered. Khalil lived!” I look at the cops again.’” (179) Khalil is more than just a victim in the novel. With this drastic turn, Starr goes from being a sorrowful and timid person to a fearless campaigner. Starr is anxious and unsure of whether the correct words will come to her even after she boards the police cruiser. However, Starr ultimately just talks from the heart, and her fervent appeal moves the crowd that the protesters pay more attention to Khalil’s life than his death. Despite the tragedy of Khalil’s death, it is important to remember that he was a real person with his own hopes and goals. Starr is aware that even unintentional dehumanization of African Americans results in violence and fatalities at the hands of authorities.

This book brings up the ways in which racism and violence against black people are justified by societal preconceptions of them. The way One-Fifteen excuses himself for killing Khalil is where we can see this discrimination in action. Other than One-Fifteen’s assumption that Khalil is violent because he is black, there is no other reason for him to believe that Khalil’s hairbrush is truly a gun. Therefore, Beyonce’s song “Freedom” seeks justice, just like how the main character wants to protest for the Black community. There are many messages from Beyonce from the lines like “I can’t move, Freedom, cut me loose!” and “Won’t let my freedom rot in hell!” She is referring to both the post-slavery era and the parallels between it and the present. She promises to march and walk. She will continue to move forward each day by passing white people.