This remarkable novel, written in verse, features the alternating narratives of Camino and Yahaira, teenaged sisters who only learn of each other's existence after the sudden death of their beloved father. In Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acevedo brings the experiences of both girls vividly to life, telling a complicated story of secrets and family, and raising the question of whose tragedies we as a society deem worthy of attention.
The old lady in the seat beside me said in Spanish,
"They don't do that as much anymore. This must be a plane
of Dominicans returning home;
when you touch down on this soil, you must clap when you land.
Para dar gracios a dios. Regrezamos." & I smiled back.
But I learned young, you do not speak
of the dying as if they are already dead.
You do not call bad spirits into the room,
& you do not smudge a person's dignity
by pretending they are not
still alive, & right in front of you,
& perhaps about to receive a miracle.
You do not let your words stunt unknown possibilities.
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?
Have you read novels written in verse before? How do you think this novel would have been different if written in more traditional prose?
We never meet Papi in the book, but we feel his absence on every page. How do you understand him? How do you understand his relationships with his daughters?
Both sisters, Camino and Yahaira, are strong and smart, with family and friends who care deeply about them. Throughout the book, the specter of sexual violence is ever present. How do the girls make sense of their options and the restrictions that are placed on them?
In the author’s note at the end of the book, Acevedo shares the details behind the tragic November 2001 plane crash that inspired her novel. She talks about “who matters and deserves attention in the media.” Were you aware of this history before reading the novel? If not, did reading about it at the end change your thoughts about the book?