Are There Lesbians? Yes
A Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx gets to intern with her favourite feminist writer in Portland.
I got about two pages into this and realised I was completely in love. I have been annoyingly evangelical about it since I read the second sentence. The only reason I haven’t exploded about it on the instagram is because I don’t yet own a physical copy! So thanks to NetGalley for making it available to me I guess?
There are simply too many things to love about Juliet Takes a Breath so forgive me if I miss anything.
First of all, this is a very Latina book. If I think about it, I have a feeling that part of why I was reluctant to write this review is because this is not a book for skinny white girls who live half a world away from the Bronx. It is an unashamedly queer, Latina novel and yet… its that and yet… that gets to me, because even though on the outside i don’t have anything in common with the majority of the characters, being neither a hippy or a baby butch, their personalities and emotions resounded with me like nothing else. Particularly the titular Juliet. But then I suppose, this is why we read – to explore the experiences of others and find our common ground.
Intersectionality is a huge topic in Juliet Takes a Breath, particularly when accompanied by the recognition (or lack thereof) of white privilege. There are only two white women in the novel – and only one whom we actually meet in person. This leads to a lot of discussion about the importance of female, POC only spaces, where women can talk about their blackness, their latinness, their asianness, without the intercession of white people, no matter how well meaning. in fact, the notion of White Feminism as a whole is systematically picked apart throughout the novel – with Juliet’s hero Harlowe Brisbane the author of a novel called Raging Flower: Empower Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind how could it not? The fact that so much of Feminism leaves trans-women behind is routinely brought up for the same reason that black feminism is – in that it is used to discuss how white women, in their position of privilege can choose to either ignore the problems other women face, or can use their platform to bring awareness, and more than that, to bring about effective change.
One thing I did notice about Juliet Takes a Breath was the breakdown of any mix-raced couples. I’m not sure if this is meant to be a statement by the author, but I did find it a little disheartening. On the flip side, the reason for the breakdowns did tend to be because the white party refused to listen to their POC partner when it came to issues of race and culture. Because of the breakdown of one of the romantic couples however, we did get to see a positive move forward where both parties were able to resolve their differences and remain friends, something that is very encouraging, and possibly even necessary in a small community.
Mostly of course, what I love about this novel is… Juliet. I love her so much. I love her enthusiasm and the way she breaks and finds herself again. I love the way she develops intense crushes on cute girls and that she gets a gay haircut because of a crush on one of said cute girls. I love that her faith doesn’t get in the way of her gayness, my favourite part was when she talked about the time she met god. Whether it’s because it highlights the difference in the listeners or because in that moment, I saw myself in her more strongly than at any other time I don’t know, but it moved something in me and I loved her and this whole novel all the more for it.
This is a book that challenged my ways of thinking, opened my mind to new modes of thought, made me want to be a better person, made me step back and take a look at myself and society and think “how could this be different? How could this be better?” I don’t say that to imply that Juliet Takes a Breath is spinach reading – tastes meh but is good for you, rather it is an enjoyable read which is so suffused with the authors passion for life and improvement that you are drowned in its love and only at the very end, when the last line stabs you in the heart and finally releases you, can you breathe.
I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review