I had the pleasure of reading an advanced reading copy (ARC) of Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. I asked to review this book as I teacher predominantly black and Latino(a) students in NYC, some who are questioning their sexuality and/or identities and their place in the world. I hoped that the book might be relateable to my students. The book has definitely met my expectations and one that I fully intend to share with the teachers and students that will understand and relate to the different nuances in the story, perhaps even better than myself.
It is important to note while reviewing this book that I am a white woman who is not part of the LBGTQ+ community and who has been handed white privileged for nothing. That may not give me much authority to speak on a book such as Juliet Takes a Breath. Take what you will from my review, but understand that my understanding of the character is so much more limited than many of my students' understanding will be should they choose to read this book. I consider myself pretty open minded and an ally in the sense that I do my best to provide a safe space for everyone to learn regardless of race, gender, identity, etc. I hope as you all read this story, that you keep an open mind as well, even if you are vastly different to this cultures present just like I am.
Without spoiling too much of the story, Juliet Takes a Breath is about a Puerto Rican dyke searching for understanding about the emotions inside her to find her identity. Having been inspired by the book Raging Flowers by Harlowe Brisbane, a white hippie feminist, Juliet comes out to her family and goes to live with Harlowe as part of an internship for college credit which gives Juliet a taste into the the LBGTQ+ community as she goes on a journey of self-realization.
From the very beginning Juliet finds herself face to face with new ideas, beliefs, and cultures ranging from her relationship with Harlowe, her girlfriend Lainie, to her mom's feelings about being a lesbian. She is taught to question everything, including herself, and to also believe in herself and her own self-worth and beauty. She forms new bonds and severs old ones as she begins to understand what is truly important to herself. She has a variety of uncomfortable, confusing, happy, wonderful, sad, etc. experiences and emotions that help shape her realizations in this amazing coming of age story.
As a teacher, this story is one that I think my students will be able to relate to and that provides it much value. The more a student can relate to a story, the more they can take away from it and truly learn valuable lessons. It also helps with engagement. I truly believe that my students will be able to see themselves within Juliet and the author Gabby Rivera. Juliet Takes a Breath holds a lot to offer and it is important that we have more stories not only about minority groups, but also written by people who are minorities.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did and share it with those you think could benefit from reading it. Don't be afraid to feel a roller coaster of emotions as you tag along on Juliet's journey.