Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera is the kind of coming out and coming of age story that I wished I’d read when I was a teen. This beautiful story deals with family relationships and expectations, feminism, racism, spirituality and love in all of its glorious forms.
Juliet Milagros Palante is a cute, introverted and geeky Puerto Rican baby lesbian from the Bronx. Juliet busted out of the closet and came out to her family during a “goodbye, see you soon” dinner. That happened the night before she flew to Portland, Oregon, to intern with the one and only Harlowe Brisbane—the greatest feminist writer of all time. She knows that her life will never be the same again after she meets Harlowe. Unfortunately, Juliet’s coming out did not go down well with her mom at all and she doesn’t even know if her mom still loves her or wants to have anything to do with her after that fateful night.
All is not lost because Juliet has a fool-proof plan… or so she thinks. Juliet believes that her internship with Harlowe Brisbane—the pussy worshipping, feminist goddess known to all womankind—will help her solve all of her dilemmas. But here’s the thing… Harlowe is white. She isn’t from the Bronx and she has no idea what Juliet’s life is really like so she can only make wild guesses.
This was a summer like no other… It was filled to the brim with amazing queer brown parties and gatherings, a lovely entanglement with an adorable motorcycling librarian and there were a lot of thought-provoking discussions about race and identity. Juliet learns the true meaning of having pride and coming out. She comes out to the world, her family, her dearest friends and most importantly, to herself.
Will Juliet learn how to love and embrace all of the wonderful, messy and quirky parts of herself?
Juliet Palante is a nineteen-year-old intern and she’s slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that she is a lesbian. She wants to please her mom and her girlfriend but she also wants to be loved for who she really is and she’s worried that her coming out at a family dinner might ruin the tight bond she has with her mom. I just wanted to wrap my arms around Juliet and give her the biggest hug ever because I could totally understand her pain, fears and frustration. I loved everything about Juliet! She is a total book nerd, she’s socially awkward and she reveres libraries just as much as I do!
Ava is Juliet’s cousin and she plays a pivotal role in blowing Juliet’s mind and broadening her views about feminism, gender and how limitless sexual identity can be. I couldn’t get enough of Ava’s feisty attitude and I wished she was a real person because I would have loved to meet her!
Harlowe Brisbane also known as the “Pussy Lady” is a lesbian/feminist author. She wrote her best-selling book called The Raging Flower and this is the book that brought Juliet into her world. She is a tree-hugging, free-loving and all-natural earth mama who believes in the power of divine femininity. Harlowe is definitely a complicated woman because she writes books and holds workshops in order to help many women deal with their issues about loving their bodies and she encourages white women to support women of color but she also has a lot of underlying issues that she is avoiding or flat out refusing to address. I’ve still got a little love for Harlowe even though she made some serious blunders because being a kindhearted person doesn’t mean that she will be exempt from messing up or getting stuff completely wrong sometimes.
The Writing Style
Gabby Rivera wooed me with her lyrical and enthralling writing style and I’m dealing with a serious book hangover right now! She has given me vivid snapshots of the Bronx and Portland, Oregon and I must say that she has done a fabulous job of making me fall in love with Miami and the totally badass and lovable people in the Clipper Queerz group. What I enjoyed the most about this novel is the fact that Juliet’s point of view did not completely dominate the story and I was able to see things through Ava, Maxine, Zaira and Kira’s eyes. I’m bestowing the coffee cup honor on this author because there were a few times where I should have been sleeping but I was too caught up in Juliet’s innermost thoughts and her raw emotions to even consider turning off my kindle.
My Favourite Parts
I had the rare and priceless opportunity to go back in time and see myself as a curious and wide-eyed baby-dyke once again! I was living my best life when I tagged along with Juliet while she was learning some serious life lessons about loving herself, tapping into her literary talents and facing her greatest fears. Plus, this talented wordsmith gave nods of respect to two of my favorite authors of color—Octavia Butler and Gloria Anzaldua. Gabby Rivera definitely deserves the highest of fives for creating this awesome novel!
This story is so much more than a “Girl-meets-the-World” new-adult story. It is a novel that celebrates the deep connection and love that resides in places where people of color take up space. My heart swelled with love for all the beautiful and flawed characters in this novel because they just wanted to live out loud and proud and they wanted their voices to be heard and respected. This novel will go down in herstory as one of the best books that I’ve read this year and my book dragon heartily approves of my choice!
Excerpt from Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera
Why did I decide to travel across the country over a few emails and love for a book?
What did I really know about Harlowe Brisbane? She was the woman DYKE magazine referred to as the “Pussy Lady,” and she was the woman who invited me into her home and shouldn’t I have asked a million other questions before coming? What if she was one of those people who was capable of inducing a riot or commanding the attention of a flock of feminists at a rally but couldn’t handle normal shit, like picking up their dry-cleaning or a scared Puerto Rican baby-dyke from the airport?
Thirty minutes. In thirty minutes, I’d lost myself to anxiety and daydreams and nearly sprang out of my flesh when Harlowe appeared five inches from my face and asked, “Hey, are you Juliet?”
My mouth opened, but the words I was going to say evaporated. Every clever and adorable, awkward thing I’d prepared vanished.
“Harlowe?” I asked, mouth dry, heartbeats eclipsing all other brain functions.
She nodded fast, smiling big. Harlowe wrapped her arms around me and pulled me into her chest. The scent of patchouli and tobacco enveloped my nostrils.
“Oh, Juliet, you’re here,” Harlowe said, still holding me. She kissed my cheek and hugged me tight enough to lift me off the ground. “Sweet girl, your aura smells so fresh,” she said, pausing to take a look at me.
Harlowe kept her palms on my shoulders. We admired each other for a moment. Her bright flaming red hair was cut short and her eyes were a deep blue. Taking her all in quelled my anxiety and gave me a moment to take a deep fucking breath.
“I’ve told the whole world about you,” she said. “And thank goddess for your sweet-smelling aura because otherwise this entire experience might be way more difficult, you know?”
Never in my life had I been excited about having an aura that smelled good. Who knew they even had a smell?
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9780241433997
- Publisher: Penguin Random House
- Gabby Rivera Online
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