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Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Takes a Breath

by Gabby Rivera

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905134,128 (4.21)4
2017 (3) book club (2) coming of age (4) coming out (4) ebook (5) family (2) feminism (5) fiction (13) General Fiction (2) Latino (2) Latinx (5) lesbian (7) lesbians (1) lgbt (2) LGBTQ (4) LGBTQIA (2) memoir (1) Miami (2) novel (3) Portland (3) Puerto Rican (4) queer (6) quiltbag (2) racism (2) read in 2016 (2) realist (1) to-read (9) unread (2) YA (7) young adult (2)



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This book is about a Queer Puerto Rican 19 year old girl, Juliet. She goes to the house of an author she looks up to for an internship. The author, Harlowe, wrote raging flower. A feminist book. Along the way she learns Harlowe...is flawed to say the least. Juliet is trying to learn where her queer chubby brown self fits into feminism that ends up being whitewashed. Also before she left for the internship she came out to her family...and the reaction wasn't great.

Honestly I still hate her mother though i'm not sure i'm supposed to. She's "trying" but failing so hard. I will never understand why it's so hard to accept that some people..are gay. Like who cares? Why is it a problem and so hard to come to grips with? I will never understand homophobic people and I don't really care to. Though maybe that's my own failing. Obviously homophobia isn't ok, but if someone is really trying to learn and do better...

As for the other characters, I mostly loved them. I have a weird relationship with Harlowe. She made me look at myself in ways I didn't want to, confront my own white privilege. I keep thinking i'm doing this and I know racism is wrong and horrible, but i'm still white with all the shit the US has ingrained in me and having been raised by a racist family. Racism never made sense to me, but that doesn't mean i'm immune even without meaning to be (which does not make it ok!). Harlowe ends up doing things I know past me would have done and not understood was wrong, so I couldn't exactly hate her when I saw she was trying to apologize, learn and do better. But she isn't doing so great and I can easily see why people would hate her. At some points in the story it felt like "oh, so POC are allowed to be flawed and mess up, but white people aren't?" not from the story, but from how I know there is hatred for Harlowe even as I saw her trying (but generally not doing a good job of that), but she isn't the only one that's flawed. Everyone is, because everyone is human and being human means messing up and doing your best to learn and do better but no one will ever be perfect. We..are..human.

By the end of the book I saw that isn't the case. I can see why people hate Harlowe, even though I don't think she's exactly evil. I don't love her, I don't hate her. I'm not sure how I feel about her, it's an odd relationship. Which is why I feel odd about hating Juliet's mother. Juliet doesn't hate her mom. They say they love each other, but I can't wrap my head around how you can love someone but not accept they are gay and why is that so hard?

Basically this book is causing me to take a long hard look at myself, to think a lot and ask questions. I JUST finished this book, and I know it will take me awhile to process it.

I LOVE Juliet. She is naive but willing to learn. She doesn't have it all figured out by the end of the book, and that's ok. It's about the journey. She learns a lot in the book and is learning how to love herself, every bit of her in a world that wants to make her something else. She is only 19 and who at 19 has it all figured out? I'm pretty sure no one ever does, especially not at 19. But as I said she goes through a lot and learns a lot. There is so much to this book.

This book made me angry, sad, happy. It made me cry. I don't necessarily think it's perfect but it's damn close. It's a wonderful book with a great message, great and real characters, and ways to make you think.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially those looking to see themselves in this book or looking to challenge their mindsets. ( )
  Wickedjr89 | Jul 8, 2017 |
Such a cute book for young adults. My favorite were the parts in Miami. I want to go to the a queer barbershop dance party! Also putting so much importance on meditation/self care was really lovely to see. ( )
  knownever | May 14, 2017 |
between 2.5 and 3, i guess. this is hard for me because there are parts of this book i'd give 4 stars and parts a .5 star. i'm all over the place with this one, mostly because i think the book is all over the place, but i also can't just dismiss it.

first, the stuff i had a problem with, so we can end on a high note.

arrgghhh the editing. did no one proofread this or edit it at all??? i was driven nearly crazy with all of the typos and errors and missed punctuation (some of which were so bad that the meaning of the sentence was obscured). copy editing, line editing, proof editing, continuity editing (she contradicts herself again and again in the writing); it needs more of all of it. it was distracting.

it was choppily written. she has these moments of inspiration in the writing, so i know it could have been different, been better. partly it was probably the poor editing that made parts of it read so unevenly, but also it was just not well written in too many places. sometimes the narration was written like someone speaking, and sometimes like actual third person narration. the dialog was sometimes written the way people actually speak, and sometimes more like a clean-up edited version (ironic!) of how people speak.

i felt like this version of portland was straight out of an episode of portlandia, but maybe other people experience what she describes here. (like the author herself maybe? this is sort of autobiographical?)

juliet is supposed to be 19 in this. maybe i'm giving too much credit to 19 year olds, but she reads to me as much younger. much more like a 14 or 15 year old, except for maybe (but only maybe and definitely not for all 14 or 15 year olds) the sex. maybe if she was more mature it would have been harder to give her an opportunity to grow so much, but i thought she didn't read her age at all.

i love her point and what she's trying to do (see next section when i get to the positive things), but i really don't like it when authors lecture to me. (see my reviews of nevada and ishmael here.) some of juliet's learning happens as she's figuring out how to live, and as she encounters new experiences and terminology. the way a reader can learn as they're exposed to new ideas and thoughts in the context of a character or story or place. so it's possible to do this. but so much of juliet's learning comes as a result of sitting and being lectured to, so the reader is lectured to. it's just not my preferred method of encountering new ideas. (since i mentioned them both, it's worth saying that this book is better than both nevada and ishmael in this regard.)

on the positive side, this book addresses so many issues that need to be out there for people to read about. in her character juliet's words, she does it at a "level one style education" because that's where juliet is, and so it's accessible to people who might not be familiar with the terminology or ideas of intersectional feminism. (as a cis white middle classer i'm not even comfortable saying that her intersectional feminism is comprehensive, as my privilege might mean i'm not seeing what's missing.) i love reading about these things and the fact that she talks about so many of them makes me want to rate this book highly. these are conversations i love to have in real life, and in my reading. as juliet figures it all out, she makes mistakes along the way, like a real person would. it's not a perfect conversation - she doubts herself, like a real person would. she isn't sure of her labels or what she wants or how to be, like a real person.

her metaphor of juliet breathing carries through the book so nicely. (except all of the smoking with her asthma.) each of the places she goes and the people she meets and the things she learns allow her to breathe differently; it's at every step in the book and throughout her journey, and it works so well.

i like the topics this gets to. i like that it's by and about a queer woman of color and she writes about safe spaces for women of color that don't include white allies. i like that she's not writing for me and so it doesn't matter at all how uncomfortable it might make me. i like that it can serve as an intro into feminism or feminist politics or intersectionality. i think it's important for this conversation to be found in one place, for people who need it, and it didn't need to get deeper. (she did, deftly even, mention enough other books in passing that people could read if they wanted to go further into the conversation; so this might be just a jumping off point, but she doesn't leave you hanging if you want more.) i think the further i get from this book, the more these topics will be what sticks with me, and the more positively i'll remember the book.

it makes me more curious than i was before to read cunt by inga muscio, and to know if rivera is kind of making arguments against that book.

"...Harlowe assumed that we could all connect through sisterhood, as if sisterhood looked the same for everyone. As if all women had vaginas." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Mar 26, 2017 |
his one I read for my Lesbian book group. It is about a 19-year old Puerto-Rican lesbian from the Bronx, who comes out to her family, and then flies to Portland for the summer, to be the intern for the white, feminist author of her favorite book "Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy."

I really enjoyed this book. It's not great literature, but Juliet is such a fun, bouncy baby-dyke, I couldn't help but love her. The book covers Juliet's coming out, and the conflicts she experiences being a young lesbian of color in mostly white Portland. Sometimes the book gets way to didactic about intersectional feminism, but at other times it is funny and insightful, as in the scene early in the book when Juliet is asked what are her preferred gender pronouns and how does she identify. Juliet doesn't understand what's being asked "I'm just Juliet."

"No, I didn't know the words. No, I didn't know my preferred gender pronouns. All of the moments where I was made to feel like an outsider in a group that was supposed to have room for me added up and left me feeling so much shame."

Don't worry, Juliet gets past this, but it made me think about how easy it is to use words and phrases that people who are young and new to the community may find exclusionary.

I looked up the author on the internet, and found out that on the strength of this book, Marvel Comics reached out to Rivera to write a comic with a queer Latina super-hero, America Chavez. That's pretty awesome, I think. ( )
  banjo123 | Mar 25, 2017 |
4.5* - Not perfect, but I loved it.

"Feminism. I’m new to it. The word still sounds weird and wrong. Too white, too structured, too foreign: something I can’t claim. I wish there was another word for it. Maybe I need to make one up. My mom’s totally a feminist but she never uses that word. She molds my little brother’s breakfast eggs into Ninja Turtles and pays all the bills in the house. She’s this lady that never sleeps because she’s working on a Master’s Degree while raising my little brother and me and pretty much balancing the rhythm of an entire family on her shoulders. That’s a feminist, right? But my mom still irons my Dad’s socks. So what do you call that woman? You know, besides Mom."

When I first looked into picking up Juliet Takes a Breath, I came across a review that described this book as the female version of The Catcher in the Rye. My immediate reaction was "Oh, good grief, noooooo!" and I instantly wanted to cancel the sample that had just been delivered to my kindle.

However, I read the first few pages and was kinda hooked by the voice of Juliet, a 19-year-old Latina, living in the Bronx. The book starts with Juliet writing a letter to the author of her favourite book, a book that she originally started reading as a joke, but that turned out to have such an impact on her that she started to question her view of life.

"I fall asleep with that book in my arms because words protect hearts and I’ve got this ache in my chest that won’t go away."

I guess, this is where the similarities with Holden Caulfield start. But, really, this is also where they end. Where Holden dismisses the believes of others over his own somewhat narrow-minded ideas, which are based on his misinterpretation of the Burns poem (which he never really bothers to find out more about), Juliet wants to learn more about the ideas in the book that she regards as her "Bible" and manages to arrange an internship with its author.

And so Juliet's huge road trip begins. She moves to Portland (OR) for the summer to help her author gather material for a new book, and by doing so learn more about herself, her family, her relationships with others, her place in the world, and as with all good coming-of-age stories, she learns that stories change depending on whose narrative is given a voice.

"Who were these women? I didn’t recognize any of their faces. How could I be 19 and not know any of them? I’d always done all of my homework, read all of the books assigned in school and yet, here was a world full of possibly iconic ladies I knew nothing about."

Unlike The Catcher in the Rye, which was a painful read because I mostly remember wanting to smack Holden with his own book, I could hardly wait to pick up Juliet Takes a Breath in my spare time. A couple of nights sleep may have suffered also, but it was such good fun reading this, that I really didn't mind.

I'm looking forward to more of Gabby Rivera's writing.

"It made me wonder about all the ways that we are able to love each other and how movies and TV make it seem like you have to discard people once they break your heart or once the love disappears. Maybe that was a horrible lie, a complete disservice to real love."
( )
1 vote BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
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"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."--Back cover.… (more)

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