“Clap When You Land” is the first Elizabeth Acevedo book I have ever read and I fell in love with her writing style and storytelling. Acevedo is an American Dominican Poet and Performer and I think the best way to meet her is in the following self-reading of her book.
The poet has published five books, including a short story anthology entitled “Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths”. And she has landed on The NY Times Bestseller List for “The Poet X” and “With the Fire on High”.
“Clap When You Land” is her fourth novel. She is a DC chick with a BA in Performing Arts from George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Home girl is the truth. And clearly she is representing the DMV and bringing home a lot of love.
I was given “Clap When You Land” to read in one of my favorite social media spaces, This Browne Girl Reads. It’s a semi-exclusive book club powered by super talented Black women that blend community with individual reading. There are always amazing books being read and featured from YA like this one to mystery, romance, and classics.
The “Clap When You Land” Hardback Book
First of all, the book was worth the money. I bought the hardback version and have no regrets. It’s beautiful with the cover and without. Once I finished the book, I appreciated the cover and it’s design even more. The wording is spaced out and it makes the book very easy to read, not to mention it’s written in verse.
“I was raised so damn Dominican. Spanish my first language, bachata a reminder of the power of my body, platano & salami for years before I ever tasted peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. If you asked me what I was, & you meant in terms of culture, I’d say Dominican. No hesitation, no question about it. Can you be from a place you have never been? You can find the island stamped all over me, but what would the island find if I was there? Can you claim a home that does not know you much less claim you as its own?”Yahaira Rios, First Generation Dominican American (“Clap When You Land”, page 97)
Setting & Characters
The story starts in the mud of a resort town on the Dominican coast and swaps between that and the concrete of a barrio in Domincan New York. Papi Rios has two teenage daughters when he dies, one in the Dominican [Camino Rios] and another in Morningside Heights, New York [Yahaira Rios].
My favorite character in the book is Dre, Yahira’s love interest in New York. We all deserve a Dre in our lives and that is all I want to say about it. No spoiler alerts in this write up!!
There were some interesting themes at play:
- dreams vs realities in a globalizing world;
- the dualisms and complexities of belonging;
- dangers and payoffs with travel, transportation, and globalism;
- the predatory nature of resorts;
- friendship and connection between women;
- the complexities and imperfections of maternal bonds;
- familial masculinity versus foreign masculinity;
- and the immigrant’s tale.
One would think that those are some super complex themes for Young Adult (YA). But that isn’t the case. As a genre, YA can be just as challenging and thought-provoking as any other fiction subgenre. YA literature is beautiful for addressing real life. “Clap When You Land” is no exception; however, there is no sexual tension or anything explicitly adult.
“Clap When You Land” Tackles Grief
That doesn’t mean the book doesn’t tackle adult issues or deal with adult matters. “Clap When You Land” has the most accurate and beautiful portrayal of grief that I have read in a long time. Acevedo deeply moved me in the simplest ways, with words that seem incredibly straightforward. What she’s created here is deceptively difficult. It may appear easy but to write this gracefully and communicate the level of emotion and storytelling she’s accomplished bears the mark of genius.
I read this book from cover to cover in one sitting. And I cried a little bit. It was pretty sad to read what Camino, Yahaira, and their families on either side of the ocean have to deal with after the death of Papi. But it was also so refreshing because I have dealt with my own losses recently.
The story made me feel very human and it helped remind me, again, how human we all are. And I am not an immigrant, nor am I Dominican. These experiences are fairly foreign to me from the persepctive, but the longing for home, culture, and family coupled with death make this story remarkeable.
“Clap When You Land” on Leaving Home:
“Does anyone ever want to leave their home? The fresh fruit that drops from their backyard? The neighbors who wiped their snot? Does anyone ever want to believe they won’t come back? To the dog that sniffs their heel, to the bed that holds the echo of their body? Is there relief in pretending it is temporary, that one day it will be safe? That I will once again wave to the kid school bus driver.
They have no palm trees in New York City, no leaves to shade me, to brush against my cheeks like my mother’s hands. There is no one ever there, alive or buried, who knew me as a child, who cradled me close, who fed me from their table, who wiped my knees when I fell & scraped them. Here, despite the bad & ugly, is my home. And now I wish that I could stay. Does anyone ever want to leave the place they love?”“Clap When You Land”, page 401
I would recommend this a thousand times even if it’s not you’re favorite genre or even if you don’t love YA. It’s not my favorite genre either. There was not one dragon, or explosion, or invisibility spell. But. There was a lot of real love, raw loss, true loyalty, hard growth, and beautiful friendship. And if COVID hasn’t taught me anything, it has taught me the importance of all the things listed above.
Acevedo the Poet
Throughout this post I have shared some of my favorite quotes but a fun fact about Elizabeth Acevedo. She is a POET through and through. You can’t experience her work correctly unless you read it DIRECTLY from her. She has spaced the stanzas, laid out the beat, and given you the information you need to understand her. I can only quote her and it is not the same! And I recommend this book a thousand times for you, your teens, parents, and friends too.
“I am clothed in beginnings & endings. A lucky & unlucky garment. But isn’t every life adorned with both? We will see what this black brings me today.”“Clap When You Land”, page 406
For More about “Clap When You Land” and Elizabeth Acevedo,
Follow her @acevedowrites on all social media platforms