Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Lyn Di Iorio

Second Advisor

Pamela Laskin


Bildungsroman, The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo, Latinx, Young Adult, Spoken Word


This thesis explores how the Bildungsroman’s traditional narrative transforms into a window to the Latinx experience in Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. The traditional Bildungsroman features white, male, and European protagonists, according to Louis F. Caton in “Romantic Struggles: The Bildungsroman and Mother-Daughter Bonding in Jamaica Kinclad’s Annie John” (126). Recognized as the first work in the Bildungsroman genre, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1796) tracks the development and education of the protagonist from boyhood to manhood. In 20th and 21st century literature, the Bildungsroman structure expands to reflect the diverse cultures, lifestyles, and identities of its readers. Acevedo’s Bildungsroman/“coming-of-age” novel is centered on Xiomara Batista, a 15-year-old, Dominican-American teenager living in Harlem who discovers spoken word poetry as an outlet to navigate the world around her. Xiomara’s journey illustrates what some children of immigrants and Latinxs struggle with: the stress of dissonant family expectations and ill-fitting parent country traditions; the search for voice and individuality; and the conflict between blossoming sexual urges and the norms of old-fashioned parents. As the novel progresses, Xiomara responds to relatives and friends who help her have important realizations and also present obstacles to her development. This thesis ultimately explores three aspects of the book: Xiomara’s relationship with her tyrannical, pious mother; her awareness of her changing and maturing body and the effects of the male gaze on her psyche; and the evolution of her observations about her life from inner thoughts captured in a notebook to her performance of her poems at New York City’s Nuyorican Poets Café.



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