When she comes out to her Puerto Rican family as a lesbian, 19-year-old Juliet Palante gets mixed reactions. Her precocious little brother will love her no matter what, her grandmother tells her, “You are what you are,” and her mother goes to her room and doesn’t come out.
So begins Juliet Takes a Breath, a queer coming-of-age novel by Gabby Rivera, the first Latina to write for Marvel Comics.
Before she’s able to patch things up with her mom, Juliet is off to the airport, flying from the Bronx to Portland, Oregon, for a summer internship. There, she’ll live and work with Harlowe Brisbane, a feminist author affectionately known as “the pussy book lady” (her best-selling book is called Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind). Harlowe is part queer Gwyneth Paltrow, part 30-something Gloria Steinem and part Lena Dunham. So yeah, she’s a…character.
In the liberal oasis that is Portland, Juliet’s eyes are opened to a world where people ask your preferred gender pronouns and attend union rights rallies on the regular. The transition isn’t totally seamless, though: As a Latina in a majority white city, Juliet struggles to find her place. She laments, "Feminism. I’m new to it. The word still sounds weird and wrong. Too white, too structured, too foreign: something I can’t claim."