All of the women in my life were telling me the same thing. My story, my truth, my life, my voice, all of that had to be protected and put out into the world by me. No one else. No one could take that from me. I had to let go of my fear. I didn’t know what I was afraid of. I wondered if I’d ever speak my truth.” – Juliet Takes a Breath.
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.
I think the problem I had with writing this review was the fact that there was so much I wanted to say, so much that this book says, so many people out there in the world who I think needs to read and those who have simply ached for a book like this. If I could quote this entire book in this review right now, I would. As Raging Flower was to Juliet’s character, Juliet Takes A Breath will be to me.
This book is not just about a young, newly “out”, Lesbian woman going on this journey to find out what it means to be a feminist in a space free from her family’s watchful, religious and semi-skeptical eye.
This book covers self-discovery from such an intersectional and maturely inclusive level that I found myself in shock and awe at some of the people Juliet’s character meets and interacts with while in Portland. Not to mention the high level of self-reflective and relatable connection Gabby’s story offers to her readers.
On her journey to self-discovery, Juliet’s character embodies the curious, and at times, the shy point of view of not only a member of the LGBTQ+ community but also as POC who is not familiar or aware of the aspects/spectrums of the LGBTQ+ community or that of the intersectional feminism. As she continues to spend time with Harlow and those close to her, Maxine and Zaria, information flows in and even more questions tumble out and I loved it.
I think that so many others will be able to see themselves in this book, as I did and that is such an incredible feeling. I didn’t grow up in the Bronx, like Juliet’s character and I’m not Latina, but I am a curvy, queer, writer, bookworm, POC nerd who was once searching every corner I could to find answers, gain some perspective and looking for a place to feel truly comfortable in my own skin.
And while I feel more comfortable and have fewer questions about myself, I am still looking and actively seeking answers and for ways to better understand my communities and my role within them. The letter Juliet’s character writes to herself at the end, (and kind of to the reader) was everything:
“Surround yourself with other beautiful brown and black and indigenous and morena and Chicana, native, Indian, mixed race, Asian, gringa, boriqua babes.
Let them uplift you.
Rage against the motherfucking machine.
Question everything anyone ever says to you or forces down your throat or makes you write a hundred times on the blackboard.
Question every man that opens his mouth and spews out a law over your body and spirit.
Question every single thing until you find the answer in a daydream.
Don’t question yourself unless you hurt someone else.
When you hurt someone else, sit down, and think, and think, and think, and then make it right.
Apologize when you fuck up.
Consult the ancestors while counting stars in the galaxy.
Hold wisdom under tongue until it’s absorbed into the bloodstream.
Do not be afraid.
Do not doubt yourself.
Do not hide
Be proud of your inhaler, your cane, your back brace, your acne.
Be proud of the things that the world uses to make you feel different.”
Excerpt From: Gabby Rivera. “Juliet Takes a Breath.” iBooks.
My rating for this book is a result of it leaving me wanting to read more and to hang out with Juliet, Maxine, Zaria and Ava more. The kind of support system she finds within them is amazing and it is something that I would absolutely love to have one day. These women were smart, perceptive, confident, owned themselves and their ideals, they were helpful but never assuming or condescending.
I recognize that not every single human being in our lives will be perfect or equally agreeing but sometimes-strong support systems are hard to come by.
Likewise, I purposely put aside all of the great moments in which Gabby creatively broke down, or perfectly highlighted some of the everyday patriarchal and misogynistic view points and actions that plague our society—and there were a ton, like from page one.
So that I could only focus on all of the positive energy and self-confidence building and awareness that I know this book will bring to queer, young adults of color, supports of the community and any open-minded reader. The world and reading community need more books like this and more voices and writers like Gabby Rivera.
Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my review.
Until the next post,