Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

9780593108178After coming out as a lesbian to her religious, Puerto Rican family, Juliet leaves the Bronx for the first time to take on an internship with a celebrity-status, feminist author in Portland. She arrives in this alien city characterized by a subculture of “hippie white” both elated by the prospect of living and learning with her feminist hero and wounded by the rift her identity has created between her and her mother.

The summer continues to be an era of firsts for Juliet as she navigates heartbreak, intersectional feminism, and a queer community where notions of relationships and gender are an infinite spectrum. She experiences the pain of racism when it comes from a trusted loved one and the joy of finding women-of-color mentors and confidants.  While she spends much of her time researching the lives of bold women whose stories have been nearly erased by history, she also takes on the challenge of redefining what womanhood means to her.

In this novel, Gabby Rivera beautifully renders the earnestness of Juliet’s heart—a young woman eager to love and live authentically.  Outside of the confines of the women’s studies classes and feminist book that first inspired her, Juliet comes face-to-face with the hurtful reality that even the feminist community is full of well-intended individuals who are oblivious to their own privilege and supremacist outlook. Rivera explores nuanced themes of accountability and forgiveness, highlighting the importance of respecting one’s instincts and staying true to oneself above all else.

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We could set out words on these sun-drenched branches and let the breeze guide us to resolution. For a split second, I wondered if there was a price to pay for this type of peace.

 

“Weird is the only way to live,” she said, her faith solid.

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