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Juliet Takes a Breath
Cover of Juliet Takes a Breath
Juliet Takes a Breath
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A People magazine Best Book of Fall 2019An Amazon Best Young Adult Book of 2019"F***ing outstanding."—Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling authorJuliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted...
A People magazine Best Book of Fall 2019An Amazon Best Young Adult Book of 2019"F***ing outstanding."—Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling authorJuliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted...
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  • A People magazine Best Book of Fall 2019
    An Amazon Best Young Adult Book of 2019
    "F***ing outstanding."—Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author


    Juliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx. Only, she's not so closeted anymore. Not after coming out to her family the night before flying to Portland, Oregon, to intern with her favorite feminist writer—what's sure to be a life-changing experience. And when Juliet's coming out crashes and burns, she's not sure her mom will ever speak to her again.

    But Juliet has a plan—sort of. Her internship with legendary author Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women's bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff, is sure to help her figure out this whole "Puerto Rican lesbian" thing. Except Harlowe's white. And not from the Bronx. And she definitely doesn't have all the answers . . .

    In a summer bursting with queer brown dance parties, a sexy fling with a motorcycling librarian, and intense explorations of race and identity, Juliet learns what it means to come out—to the world, to her family, to herself.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Preface

    March 3, 2003

    Dear Harlowe,

    Hi, my name is Juliet Palante. I've been reading your book Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind. No lie, I started reading it so that I could make people uncomfortable on the subway. I especially enjoyed whipping it out during impromptu sermons given by old sour-faced men on the 2 train. It amused me to watch men confront the word "pussy" in a context outside their control; you know, like in bright pink letters on the cover of some girl's paperback book.

    My grandma calls me la sin vergüenza, the one without shame. She's right. I'm always in it for the laughs. But I'm writing to you now because this book of yours, this magical labia manifesto, has become my bible. It's definitely a reading from the book of white lady feminism and yet, there are moments where I see my round brown ass in your words. I wanted more of that, Harlowe, more representation, more acknowledgment, more room to breathe the same air as you. "We are all women. We are all of the womb. It is in that essence of the moon that we share sisterhood"—that's you. You wrote that and I highlighted it, wondering if that was true. If you don't know my life and my struggle, can we be sisters?

    Can a badass white lady like you make room for me? Should I stand next to you and take that space? Or do I need to just push you out of the way? Claim it myself now so that one day we'll be able to share this earth, this block, these deep breaths?

    I hope it's okay that I say this to you. I don't mean any disrespect, but if you can question the patriarchy, then I can question you. I think. I don't really know how this feminism stuff works anyway. I've only taken one women's studies class and that was legit because a cute girl on my floor signed up for it. This girl made me lose my train of thought. I wanted to watch her eat strawberries and make her a mixtape. So I signed up for the class and then she became my girlfriend. But please don't ask me about anything that happened in that class afterward because love is an acid trip.

    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.

    Your book is a refuge from my neighborhood, from my contradictions, from my lack of desire to ever love a man, let alone wash his fucking socks. I don't even wash my own socks. I want to learn more about the wonder of me, the lunar power of my pussy, my vadge, my taquito, that place where all the magic happens. You know, once people are quiet enough to show it reverence. I want to be free. Free like this line: "A fully realized woman is at all times her true self. No soul-crushing secrets or self-imposed burdens of shame, these create toxic imbalance, a spiritual yeast infection if you will. So step out into the fresh air and let that pussy breathe."

    I've got a secret. I think it's going to kill me. Sometimes I hope it does. How do I tell my parents that I'm gay? Gay sounds just as weird as feminist. How do you tell the people who breathed you into existence that you're the...

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 19, 2019
    In this retooling of her YA debut, Rivera explores intersectional feminism through a self-described “closeted Puerto-Rican baby-dyke from the Bronx.” Juliet Palante has just finished her freshman year of college, and after seeing her girlfriend off and coming out to her family, she’s headed to Portland, Ore., to intern for “the Pussy Lady”: Harlowe Brisbane, author of Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind. Brisbane, who is white, is awfully relaxed about the internship and their living arrangements, and her brand of feminism seems limited to Juliet, who is not sure she can be comfortable in New Agey, predominantly white Portland. But Palante means “to move forward,” and in Rivera’s expansive prose (a mix of letters, book excerpts, and narration), Juliet does. In trying to keep it together, and sometimes succeeding, she comes off as wonderfully human, worrying about her first girlfriend (and maybe her second); her mother’s bad reaction to her coming out; and navigating micro aggressions, new ideas, and research before Google. Best of all, Juliet’s eye-opening summer of identity research reflects early adult life—intense experiences and relationships, and the work of finding oneself—in all its messy, confusing splendor. Ages 14–up.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2019
    Bronx native Juliet Palante lands her dream internship in Portland, Oregon, the summer after her freshman year of college. In 2003, the 9/11 attacks are a recent memory, mixtapes are in full effect, and Juliet comes out as a lesbian to her Puerto Rican family the night before she leaves town. Bearing the pain of her mother's disapproval, Juliet bravely moves forward (pa'lante!) in hopes of self-transformation with Harlow Brisbane, author of Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind--Juliet's beloved "magical labia manifesto." Curious and open, Juliet plops into Harlow's white hippie world of polyamorous lesbians and feminism while she questions her purpose as a brown-skinned, curvy, asthmatic, Puerto Rican lesbian. When a Raging Flower reading blows up, Juliet flees, seeking refuge with her badass revolutionary cousin and her queer chosen family, further expanding her understanding of personal freedom. Diverse primary and secondary characters reflect believable communities in Portland and Miami, although the portrayal of Filipino tertiary character Phen lacks cultural texture. Rivera (America, Vol. 2: Fast and Fuertona, 2018, etc.) offers up a passionate tribute to the power of one's voice through Juliet's savvy and tender narration. Crucial and intense explorations of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race ring true. A white and Korean librarian love interest and a masturbation scene add sweet sensuality to Juliet's self-discovery. A whirlwind coming-of-age story that leaves one breathless. (Fiction. 14-adult)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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