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Juliet Takes a Breath

The summer after her first year of college is going to be great for Juliet Milagros Palante. An internship with her favorite feminist author means spending the summer in the hippy, happening city of Portland, Oregon—far away from her home in the Bronx. She’s packed the inhalers she needs to control her asthma, her girlfriend, Lainie, has promised to call, and her extended family sends her off with a traditional Puerto Rican dinner.

But the summer doesn’t quite turn out as planned. Juliet’s mother won’t talk to her after Juliet comes out, Lainie isn’t returning her messages, and the feminist scene in Portland is more complicated than Juliet expected. Juliet doesn’t know what preferred gender pronouns are, what it means to be polyamorous or why activists of color sometimes distrust their well-meaning white friends. Is her mentor, Harlowe, who champions positivity toward women’s bodies, really the heroine Juliet thinks she is? How can Juliet call herself a queer feminist when she isn’t sure what those words mean anymore? Where does religion—whether it’s Juliet’s Catholic faith or any other—fit in to feminist ideologies? Who is Juliet, anyway, and who does she want to become?

Set in 2003, Juliet Takes a Breath is both a coming-of-age story and a guidebook to an emerging world of intersecting identities. Author Gabby Rivera takes readers through an unforgettable summer of libraries, science fiction writing workshops, hair-styling parties, women’s studies and self-discovery: Shell Shockers full version.

Knoll Jerold

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