A good book can change the course of one's life, spark a whole movement, or transcend limitations of time, money, class, and location, and every power woman (even our favorite former First Lady, Michelle Obama) counts on a great read to keep them empowered and inspired.
Elizabeth Acevedo, a New York Times best-selling author, is one power woman who is on fire about using creative writing to empower communities, especially minority youths. Her debut novel, The Poet X, about a teenager named Xiomara who combats family issues through poetry, won the 2018 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
"I write the stories I wish I had when I was younger. Growing up, there were so few books where I felt like I could see myself. I needed more images and stories that showed me different examples of the kind of girl that I could be."
Drawing from her experience as a Dominican-American woman, she's provided just that, and sis has some pretty dope receipts.The former 8th-grade teacher and University of Maryland professor has been honored with the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and the 2019 Pure Belpré Author Award for her work in celebrating Latinx culture and experience. Another fly it factor: She is a National Poetry Slam Champion, having spit rhymes that could make the best rapper's or wordsmith's head spin. One of her books, With the Fire on High, about a teen mom who has dreams of being a chef, was even recently a DC Public Library's virtual book club pick. Her books offer a window for Latinx youth to see themselves, evaluate their realities and build inclusive futures.
We caught up with her, in this xoNecole interview, to talk inspiration, why she rides hard for Latinx culture and voice, and how other aspiring writers can make a living using the art of language:
When did you know full-time writing was for you?
I was a touring poet years before my first book came out. I would go to colleges and high schools and do shows. My parents had no idea what I was doing. (Laughs) They were like, 'Oh, you don't have health benefits? You don't have a secure income? What are you doing? You went to all these amazing schools to be a poet?' And I'm like, yeah, that's exactly what I did. It was really hard for people to see the vision I had.
I wanted to make a life of language---a life where my stories and the stories that connect us was how I made a living. That was more important to me than a check, how big it would be, or whether I had a 401k.
Once the book came out, that changed things. Then you have a novel that's on The New York Times list and wins awards, and I think it really shook people up in terms of what the possibilities were. I think I always knew that there's a lot I can do with this if I just figure it out, but I don't know that everyone had that same belief at the time.
How has your work in education and community advocacy played a role in the stories you choose to write?
I've been in the space of youths or as a classroom-based teacher in some capacity for the past decade. It makes me mindful of how young people talk and the experience that they have.
The respect that I have for young readers comes out because of the fact that I meet so many amazing teenagers.
It just makes me aware [of the] readership and what that readership is able to handle. [New ideas can come] just talking with them. It could be something simple and it'll just spark something--what they had for lunch that day or their interaction with a teacher or another student. Little moments come up for me. I'll also talk with my mom and [a conversation might] make me think, 'Hey, this isn't a character trait I've seen before' or 'That would be interesting material in a novel.' I think I'm just open to what's happening around me and it means that I always have a list of ideas that I want to work on.
'Clap When You Land' is striking, especially if you're someone who travels often. What's behind the title?
There are certain countries in Latin America and even the continent of Africa, where, when you land, people applaud. It's usually people coming back home---you're from that place. There's so much joy in returning and in having survived the trip. Particularly for Dominicans, growing up, it was so beautiful to be on that flight returning to where your people are from. It's like we're all in that moment together---we're all just grateful together. It's really moving for me.
In 2001, there was a plane that crashed when traveling from New York City to the Dominican Republic. I was 12 years old and it completely shook me up. Hundreds of people trying to go back home was a moment that should've been full of joy, yet it was riddled with tragedy. I've always wanted to write about that experience.
So the phrase "clap when you land" and this horrible event that happened kind of started meshing together. What is the joy and bittersweetness in going back and forth, and in what way does that affect our lives? It's reflecting on that event but it's a very different kind of story of two sisters--one in the Dominican Republic and one in New York City--who don't know about each other until their father dies in a plane crash. It's about the secrets people keep and forgiving a parent after they're no longer here to be forgiven. How do you develop a relationship with a stranger you may have resentment toward and is there room for applause in any of that?
You still have a passion for poetry. How can others tap into a love for poetry or develop as poets?
I think it's a really exciting time for poetry. We're seeing more people from marginalized communities receiving a lot of attention for their work. It's incredible to see how many poets---of color, transgender, within the LGBT community---are able to have their work in the world. Because of social media, YouTube---there all these different ways you can consume poetry. I do so many school visits and I don't remember a poet ever coming to my school---ever.
Now, schools all over the country are using poetry videos in class, getting poet visits, or reading poetry collections---it's so exciting for me to see that. It feels like poetry is part of the narrative in people's lives, whether in the classroom or elsewhere.
Every year an article comes out that says poetry is dead, but I'm like, I don't know what poetry you consume. The poetry I live with is breathing! I feel good that The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is an incredible, historic place. The Bowery Poetry Club in New York is fantastic. Depending on where you're from, I would encourage you to look for whatever poetry community exists [where you are.] Throughout the country there are different programs---whether it's even a theater program that has a poetry component or maybe a creative writing program where you can work on verse.
What advice do you have for others who want to become full-time writers?
Keep working on honing your voice. Everything else can fall into place, but if you don't have the clear sense of what you're trying to say and how you're trying to say it so that it's uniquely you, you're going to get lost in the sauce. There are a lot of writers out there, and I think that what creates distinction between people's work is that very unique language and point of view.
Second, find a writer's group. I feel like folks want to look at [the] Internet and say, 'How do I do that,' and not consider that the community is a big part of it. I've always had a community around me since I was a kid---cyphers on my block, hanging out with the dudes on [the] corner, rapping---that was my first writer's group. When I went to high school, I joined a poetry club, and when I went to college, there were workshops. You want two or three people you can share your work with, who can give you feedback---who you trust.
Last, look for a mentor whose doing the same thing you want to do but they're one or two steps above where you are. Reach out to them. There's a lot to be said to someone who has carved a way and who can help school you on how to do things.
You can find out more about Elizabeth Acevedo, her books, and her work via her Website or her Instagram.
Featured Image courtesy of Instagram/acevedowrites
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
2023 has become the year of celebrity breakups with headlines breaking left and right about celebs filing for divorce or ending high-profile relationships. The latest couple to announce their dissolution? British actress Jodie Turner-Smith. TMZ reported that Jodie has filed for a divorce from her husband, Dawson Creek alum Joshua Jackson.
As far as her reason for calling it quits, Jodie cited "irreconcilable differences," according to TMZ, and has requested joint custody of the couple's daughter, Juno Rose Diana Jackson. Late last year there were rumblings of there being "trouble in paradise" for the couple after the media realized they were no longer following each other on Instagram.
Those rumors were more than laid to rest when Jodie and Joshua went to the 2023 Oscars together earlier this year, and even more recently, when they celebrated her birthday together last month during the September unveiling of the Lotus Emeya.
Jodie Turner-Smith celebrates her birthday with husband Joshua Jackson at the unveiling of the new fully-electric Lotus Emeya on September 07, 2023 in New York City.
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Lotus
Despite seeming particularly happy and in love, perhaps the writing was already written on the wall even then. In the past, Jodie has been very celebratory publicly about her love for her estranged husband, even boldly recounting their love story for the books in a 2021 interview with Seth Meyers.
When Jodie and Joshua met, it was while at his birthday party in 2018. Their relationship was hot and heavy from the start, with Jodie openly noting that they began as a "one-night stand." During her 2021 interview with Seth Meyers, she jokingly referred to their love story as a "three-year one-night stand." She shared:
"First of all, I saw him before he saw me and when I saw him, I was like, 'I want that.' And then when he saw me, I just pretended like I didn't see him. He had to yell across the room to me, and I was wearing this T-shirt from a movie called Sorry to Bother You and [actress] Tessa Thompson plays a character called Detroit, and she has this T-shirt that says, 'The Future Is Female Ejaculation.'
"And so, he shouts across the room, 'Detroit!' He comes over and… does this really cute, charming thing that he does and just all night -- he just basically followed me around the party."
The couple were together from that moment forth, and even made things "Instagram official" less than two weeks later while on a dinner date. Joshua would later clarify to Insider that the night they met in 2018 was not a 'one-night stand' or a 'three-year one-night stand' like his then-wife joked but instead, it was "technically a three-night stand."
"It was sealed with a kiss that night and then we didn't leave each other's sides for, well, three years now," Joshua continued at the time.
In a July 2021 interview with Jimmy Fallon, Joshua dropped more details about the why behind getting married. He revealed that he didn't know he wanted to get married to Jodie until "the moment she asked me."
"She asked me on New Year's Eve. We were in Nicaragua. It was very beautiful, incredibly romantic, we were walking down the beach and she asked me to marry her."
He added, "I did not know [she would propose], but she was quite adamant and she was right. This is the best choice I ever made."
Joshua Jackson Reveals Jodie Turner-Smith Proposed To Him
Jodie received quite a bit of flack for proposing to Joshua because it goes against tradition and what society sees as acceptable for a woman to do to a man, and proposing isn't one of them. No matter how much time has passed, the viewpoints around who should do the proposing and who should be proposed to are still very traditional.
After being on the receiving end of such backlash, Joshua would later clarify to the media in a separate interview that it wasn't just Jodie's proposal to him that sealed the deal of them getting married, he proposed to her too. She might have initiated it, but Joshua followed through.
"I accidentally threw my wife under the bus because that story was told quickly and it didn't give the full context and holy Jesus, the internet is racist and misogynist," he explained to Refinery29 that same year. "We were in Nicaragua on a beautiful moonlit night, it could not possibly have been more romantic."
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
He continued, "And yes, my wife did propose to me and yes, I did say yes, but what I didn't say in that interview was there was a caveat, which is that I'm still old school enough that I said, 'This is a yes, but you have to give me the opportunity [to do it too].'"
"She has a biological father and a stepdad, who's the man who raised her. [I said], 'You have to give me the opportunity to ask both of those men for your hand in marriage.' And then, 'I would like the opportunity to re-propose to you and do it the old-fashioned way down on bended knee.' So, that's actually how the story ended up."
Joshua and Jodie would eventually marry in December 2019. Shortly thereafter, Jodie gave birth to the couple's first child, Janie, in 2020.
In a recent interview with Elle UK, Jodie shared the ways becoming a mother to Juno helped to heal her of her wounds from colorism she experienced in the past. "It's interesting because I had a lot of resistance to becoming a mother and, throughout my life, I always said if I were to have children, I wanted to have Black, Black babies so that I could affirm them as children with the love that I felt I needed to have been affirmed with by the outside world," Jodie shared with the outlet.
She continued, "Then I fell in love with my husband and we talked about having kids. I did have this mini pause, where I was like, 'She's going to be walking through the world not only having an experience that I did not have, but looking like people that, in a way, I'd always felt a little bit tormented by.' Now that I've got this little, tiny, light-skinned boss, I feel like it’s the universe teaching me lessons. I've been given a daughter who looks this way to heal my own conversations around colorism."
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Featured image by Amy Sussman/Getty Images