I can’t remember the last time I really loved a book. (Reminder – I’m still working to increase my attention span for fiction to its pre-grad school levels. I’ve not recently read a ton of books.) This book however, sunk quickly into my heart. Elizabeth Acevedo crafted this tight, lyrical tale tracking the trials of Dominican teen, Xiomara Batista, as she navigates some of the most painful edges of adolescence growing up in Harlem.

What REALLY resonated with my therapist side is how, at one point in the story, Xio’s family members converse with someone outside the family and it helps bust their family system wide open. Much needed air flows in. I won’t spoil it, but it served as a powerful reminder of how, when you expand the nuclear family to let in other voices, it can relieve the pain and the pressure from struggling family members. Marriage is challenging. Raising children is Crazy Town. Adolescence is Nuts. Add to that, societal pressures, social inequities, and intergenerational trauma; few of us get the benefit of being raised by self-aware, stress-free, highly communicative, unconditionally loving parents. In the absence of stellar parenting, it’s hopeful to remember what families can gain when they invite in mentors, therapists, friends, kin, and clergy to breathe new air into fixed, dark spaces and help dislodge painful patterns that keep families stuck.

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