86 pages 2 hours read

Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | YA | Published in 2020

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Symbols & Motifs


In literary tradition, water as an antagonistic force is most commonly associated with the romantics-era concept of the sublime, which suggests sheer power and the mutability and transience of humankind in the face of such an awesome force. When Papi’s plane crashes into the Atlantic, water is ultimately his killer. In the novel’s opening poem, Camino uses the metaphor of mud to illustrate her growing need to leave her hometown: “I know that when a street doesn’t have sidewalks / & water rises to flood the tile floors of your home, / learning mud is learning the language of survival” (1). However, Camino’s affinity for water is also the source of escape from the hardships of her life: “Swimming might be the closest to flying a human being can get. There is something about your body displacing water [...] that makes you feel / Godtouched” (38). In Clap When You Land, water plays dualistic roles as a source of escape for Camino and as a destructive and powerful force.

However, water takes on new meaning as a connection to the story’s strong themes of synchronicity and fate when Tía Solana compares Camino’s love of the ocean to her mother’s: “She was always happiest when she was near the water.