Elizabeth Acevedo – Clapping When You Land – Ranking

SaveSavedRemoved 0
Deal Score0
Deal Score0

Life changed forever

A review of

Clap when you land: a novel in verse
Elizabeth Acevedo

Hardcover: Quill Tree Books, 2020
Buy Now: (Amazon) (Kindle) (Audible)

Reviewed by Cate Desjardins

On November 12, 2011, shortly after taking off in Queens, New York, a plane with 251 passengers crashed on the way to the Dominican Republic. Most of the passengers were Dominicans who either went home or visited relatives. The crash shook the Dominican quarters in New York, where almost everyone knew someone who knew someone who was on the plane. A young Elizabeth Acevedo, who grew up in a predominantly Dominican quarter, grew up facing this plane crash and has always remembered how quickly the media cycle stopped reporting such a crucial event when it was found that the crash was not a terrorist one Incident was.

Elizabeth Acevedo, an Afro-Latin American poet and former National Slam champion, took the YA world by storm with her National Book Award-winning The Poet X in 2018. The book revolves around the predominantly Dominican quarter of Morningside Heights and traces the coming of Xiomara "X" when she finds her voice through poetry. It is a masterful book that deservedly swept the award ceremony scene for youth literature in 2018.

Our most anticipated
Literature books of autumn 2020

In her fourth novel, Clap When You Land, Acevedo returns to the horror of American Airlines Flight 587, which upsets and uproots life. In a similar but fictitious flight accident, a young woman in Queens learns that her father has died. At the same time, a young woman waiting for her father to come to the Dominican Republic for his annual visit learns that his plane crashed on the way. After living a double life with two women in two countries, a reality that Acevedo exposed in some of her research into real AA flight 587, the book examines the double end of the sisters' lives as they mourn their loss Father and discover the mutual existence.

As with all Acevedo books, the outstanding quality is the poetry itself. Acevedo's writing is narrow and fast, at the same time fluid and lyrical. Her writing has a rhapsodic quality that drives the story forward and enables the reader to limit himself to certain images and metaphors that anchor the complex narrative.

For the two sisters Yahaira in New York and Camino in the Dominican Republic, these metaphors are chess and healing. For years, her father enthusiastically encouraged Yahaira to play chess games and tournaments. The year before her father's death, she quit. The powers behind this quitting are slowly being uncovered and, while not surprising when uncovered, are an important commentary on trauma and ambition. For Camino, who accompanies her traditional healer Tia on medical home visits and dreams of going to the United States to become a doctor, her narrative is littered with references to plants and healing ceremonies.

It was at this very moment in history, when we are again aware of the gap between Black America and White America, the gap between the worlds of the two girls, who are both Dominican women but have very different life experiences, which drove me forward as a reader. There were moments when the sisters met and it was impossible to ever find common ground. This tension drove me as a reader.

The book started slowly and remained in the worlds of both sisters. At the beginning I was concerned with poetry, words, metaphors and rhythm. When the two sisters' stories came together, I was unable to put the book away until I finished it. The climax was shattering and heart-warming. Clap When You Land asks big questions about what constitutes a family, how to forgive and continue to love those who have gone before us and who have grief when events devastate entire communities and multiple families. This is a book about grief, but not so much about the inner world of grief, but about the way death turns whole worlds upside down and what we thought we knew.

For readers of the faith, Clap When You Land tells a faith, that of Camino and her Tia, that seamlessly combines Christianity and traditional beliefs and practices without questioning this mixture but celebrating it. This is valuable and necessary in the literature and in conversation. The book also offers us a queer character, which is in no way defined by this queerness, but lives with grace and expectation of acceptance.

Clap When You Land was the most convincing novel by Acevedo so far. Her poems and actions have always been strong, but are getting better and better. Above all, Clap When You Land is a satisfying read. One that ends with a hopeful note, but is still a lot to discover and learn and learn from the characters again if they move into their lives forever changed. It is a timely book for this moment, in which our world is immersed in unprecedented times that are marked by grief and are increasingly aware that there will be no "back" to normal. Clap When You Land taught us a lot.


Cate Desjardins

Cate Desjardins is a Mennonite reader, writer, chaplain, and researcher based in Cincinnati, Ohio. She blogs about faith and travel Heiligewanderings.com.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply