Juliet Takes A Breath: A New YA Lesbian Classic + Related Lesbian and Feminist Literature

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera breaks new ground in the realm of YA lesbian fiction. Where most lesbian novels for teens focus on identity, alienation, and coming out, Juliet acts as a breakneck education not just on lesbian and feminist scenes and history, but also interpersonal intelligence, resolving conflict, and understanding when and how to trust one’s mentors—themes that feminist activists have struggled with for decades. Rivera’s intelligent teenage Puerto Rican protagonist deals with adolescent romance and family, but also leaps headfirst into adult lesbian scenes where she navigates living in communities of artists and teachers who don’t always recognize her talent, knowledge, or personhood. This snarky, moving, character-centered novel explores racism and microaggressions within white lesbian spaces in a way that will be familiar to youth of color and provoke reflection in white audiences.
It also depicts joyful, loving communication and diverse queer communities. Featured on the NYPL Summer Reading List in 2018 and praised by Lambda Literary, Juliet Takes A Breath is worth promoting: its references to political and social lesbian and feminist history and emotive prose will send its readers to the bookshelves in order to explore feminist classics, theory, memoir and fiction.

Here are some titles for its fans to move on to. You can find a PDF of these titles here !

Call numbers are for Brooklyn Public Library (since I live in Brooklyn).

On Feminism
Literary witches : a celebration of magical women writers
Kitaiskaia, Taisia, author.
PRINTED MATL | Seal Press | 2017 | First edition.
Lit Non-Fic (809.89287 K)

Juliet’s project to research and write about feminist forebears—mythical and real—
from history and prehistory might have resulted in a work like this, which uses poetic
portraits to connect notable women writers to legacies of magic.

Cunt : a declaration of independence
Muscio, Inga, author.
PRINTED MATL | Seal Press | 2018 | 20th anniversary edition, Third
edition, Revised and updated. (305.4 M)

This book (1st ed 1998) about reclaiming bodily autonomy as a woman inspired Rivera’s depiction of Harlowe Brisbane, Juliet’s white feminist mentor. Juliet’s complicated feelings about whether she is included in Brisbane’s feminism echo real-life concerns from readers about Muscio’s stance on reproductive rights, trans issues, and race and colonialism, which caused Muscio to change things in this new edition . Read and evaluate it yourself!

This bridge called my back : writings by radical women of color
Moraga, Cherrie, ed. and Anzaldua, Gloria, ed.
PRINTED MATL | SUNY Press | 2015 | Fourth edition.
Non-Fic (810.8092 T)

Juliet knows that the way she’s treated by the white communities in Portland makes her feel uncomfortable and off-balance. This anthology (1st ed. 1981) collects writing on the specific oppression of women of color in the Americas and how to resist it.

Lesbian Life and Community
The essential Dykes to watch out for
Bechdel, Alison, 1960-
PRINTED MATL |Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 2008.
Non-Fic (741.5973 B)

If you like reading about lesbian activists and writers and the fights, affairs, and friendships they have with each other, try Bechdel’s satirical, heartfelt comics, which trace the lives, relationships and drama of a diverse group of lesbian friends over almost 30 years, from the 1980s to 2008.

When we were outlaws : a memoir of love and revolution
Córdova, Jeanne.
PRINTED MATL | Spinsters Ink | c2011. | 1st ed.

In this biography of 1970s radical gay politics, the author discusses both the feminist struggles of her youth (such as a conflict between the Gay Community Services Center and radical feminists trying to introduce feminist policies there) and stories of her non-monogamous love life with the impassioned women around her.

Zami : a new spelling of my name
Lorde, Audre.
PRINTED MATL | Crossing Press | c1982.
Biog (B LORDE)
Audre Lorde is one of the major black feminist authors of the 20th century. In this memoir, she tells of her youth and adolescence as a black lesbian in the 1960s, as well as her path towards writing feminist poetry and essays. Her rich prose and near-limitless
empathy and love for others color this vivid recollection that jumps between anecdote and theory.
More from Gabby Rivera
America. Vol. 1, The life and times of America Chavez
Rivera, Gabby.

Like Juliet, America Chavez is a young Latina lesbian just about to start college. Unlike Juliet, she’s got superpowers, comes from a parallel universe, and has to kick some inter-dimensional monster butt. If you like Rivera’s dialogue and character development, try out her comics—this is Marvel like nobody has done it before.


Resources Used
Bader, Eleanor (2018, May 25). Can We Reclaim The Word Cunt? This Book Thinks So. Rewire
News. Retrieved Dec 3, 2018 from https://rewire.news/article/2018/05/25/can-we-reclaim-the-
word-cunt/ .
Daniell, Rosemary (1982, Dec 19). The Poet Who Found Her Own Way. The New York Times.
Retrieved Dec 8, 2018 from https://www.nytimes.com/1982/12/19/books/the-poet-who-found-
Enzer, Julie R (2011, Nov 29). When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love and Revolution.
Lambda Literary. Retrieved Dec 9, 2018 from
revolution-by-jeanne-cordova/ .
Foster, Kimberly (2014, Feb 18). 5 Books by Audre Lorde Everyone Should Read. For Harriet
(blog). Retrieved Dec 8, 2018 from http://www.forharriet.com/2014/02/5-books-by-audre-lorde-
everyone-should.html .
Gregory, Sara (2018, Apr 5). The (Mostly) Queer, Latina Authors You Should Be Reading.
Curve. Retrieved Nov 20, 2018 from http://www.curvemag.com/Reviews/The-Mostly-Queer-
Latina-Authors-You-Should-Be-Reading-2262/ .
Holmon, Omar (2017, Mar 1). America #1 Review. Black Nerd Problems (blog). Retrieved Nov
28, 2018 from http://blacknerdproblems.com/america-chavez-1-review/ .
Lehoczky, Etelka (2017, Jul 14). A Favourite in Waiting: Alison Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out
For”. National Public Radio (story). Retrieved Dec 10, 2018 from
watch-out-for .
Popova, Maria (2018, Feb 7). Literary Witches: An Illustrated Celebration of Trailblazing Women
Writers who have Enchanted and Transformed the World. BrainPickings (blog). Retrieved Dec
10, 2018 from https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/02/07/literary-witches/ .
Publisher’s Weekly (1998, Aug 31). Cunt: A Declaration of Independence. Retrieved Dec 10,
2018 from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-58005-015-9 .
Publisher’s Weekly (2008, Nov 17). The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (starred review).
Retrieved Dec 10, 2018 from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-618-96880-0


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