INTERVIEW WITH GABBY RIVERA, Author of Juliet Takes a Breath

– Hello friends, welcome back. I am really really
excited for today’s video because this is my friend Gabby Rivera. She is one of the kindest and sweetest and most wonderful and
gentle people I know, and she’s here because she wrote a book. (gentle guitar music) And I have talked about
it on Tumblr a little bit and I have been dying to make this video and I am just so appreciative
that you are here. So hello. – Hello. – So the book is called
Juliet Takes a Breath. It is available right now on Amazon. It’s the queer YA book that I
wish I had when I was little. Gabby, who is Juliet? The person who is taking a breath. – Oh my gosh, the hope is that Juliet is a little bit of everybody. Juliet is like awkward and brown and chubby and cute and curious. She’s this girl who is from the Bronx who has figured out that
she likes other girls and so that’s not the main issue here. Like she’s comfortable with it, but there are pieces of her that she
hasn’t really figured out. Like she hasn’t figured
out is she a feminist? She hasn’t really found like a community of people of color. She is just trying to, like, make it in this world. She is just trying to decide what she is but also like explore who she could be. – One of the things that makes it stand out so much is
because you dive head-on into like what these multiple identities mean to people right? What it is to not only be queer but to be a feminist, to be a person of color. Can you just talk a little
bit about all of that and how you made that
happen so beautifully? – In my experience in like queer community like everyone is talking
about the way identities intersect and like the way we experience our identities or claim them, or the way some are pressed upon us, whether we want them to be there or not. So for example, Juliet
is a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx and I think
that generally speaking in mainstream media she’s
given one narrative. She could like, you know,
maybe drop out of high school. She could like be the
chick on Law and Order who gets in a gang fight or like gets pregnant or is murdered. There isn’t a lot going
on as far as like nuance and like layers to her, right? And I wanted to give her a chance to be like more than one type of person. To really go into what it is
to flesh out your identities. – So without giving anything away, one of the biggest narrative themes here is about allyship and about what it means to be a thoughtful and helpful ally. Tell me about that. – Allyship can be exhausting. Allyship can be exhausting
for queer people, for people of color. Many of us experience like varying levels of privilege, right? How do you play with that,
how do you support that and make it a discussion
on allyship without putting all the work on the like
African American character or the Latino character? Like how do you show people struggling and holding allyship intention in a way that is fair and in a way that kind of honors everyone’s struggle? If you’re new to these worlds and to these communities
and these identities like Juliet is, she’s not
immersed in a queer community. She’s just coming to the
table for the first time. Like she doesn’t even
know what an ally is. And I wanted to create a situation that like models good behavior. Not that I have any answer, but just just to offer to queer
people, young people, like hey, like here are ways to do that. Here are just some examples of you know how you can own your feelings and feel hurt by
something and move forward and here are some ways
where maybe you could like not be an asshole to
somebody you know, like. – Just a thought. Tell me about what it
was like to write it. – The first iteration of
it was devoid of politics, identity, it was like
this fluffy magical story that like I have to be honest that I think we’ve seen in a lot of white people movies right? Where it’s like coming of age, summer. It’s so hard to be young and in love and whoo look at me and aww so sad and then they play like the indie song and there’s like a montage and then like, and then the girl falls
in love with the like nebbishy boy and that’s the end. (laughing) I don’t mean to take on some sort of like, you know, marginalized person identity of being like the model
minority or like anything but like deep inside of me
there are feelings where if I’m going to create something it has to be better,
it has to push forward. There has to be difficult conversations. We have to talk about white privilege and white feminism and
we have to talk about that like Latinos in the Bronx and Afro Latinos and black people were activists and are activists and do this work and how our cultures have been taken from us, and how we are struggling to reclaim those things. I have to highlight voices
of like queer people, queer young people starting revolutions and movements like if I don’t do this then what the fuck am I
even writing a book for? You know? – And what’s it like figuring out how to strike that balance between like how much of yourself you put in it versus how much you let Juliet sort of become her own character? – I think mostly it was just
like letting her be messy. Because there was a part of me I think at first that kind of
wanted to pull her in that she would always
have the best one liner or that she’d always like be the funniest or like get it. It’s unfair to think
that just because like you’re queer or you’re
you know of a certain age that you always have
to say the right thing. I think that’s like a damaging narrative that even in like our activist spaces or our QPOC spaces that you have to be this perfect person that knows all the right things to say. I think that’s like so hard to live up to. – Yeah there’s one point where she, she struggles particularly figuring out how to like navigate pronouns. What was the inspiration for putting a situation like that in? – I think that I have had situations where people have treated me negatively because I didn’t know all the things or because I’ve said things wrong or written wrong things. It’s important for Juliet to have a moment where someone is putting
some pressure on her to know her stuff, like if you’re going to be part of this community you should know pronouns, you should this, you should that. I sometimes prefer or appreciate when people move with gentleness with me, but like you cannot expect gentleness especially when like interacting with people who come from communities that have been traumatized
because one person can move with gentleness and someone moves with a little more urgency and someone just fucking
expects you to be better. Like neither one of
those is right or wrong, but what they both do is push Juliet to act and to think and to question like how she is moving in the world. There’s not a lot of
models for us, you know? We just kind of run into it. We run into queerness. We run into like navigating POC spaces and trans spaces and I
can’t model everything, but whatever I can like
offer out into the world I feel like is my job or my duty you know to honor where we all come from and like offer examples. – Who do you think this book is for? – I think it’s for, it
should be for everyone. I think everybody should read this book, but if I had to like, if there
was like a million people in the crowd, I have to be honest. I would find like the most awkward like frizzy haired like chubby brown girl and be like, here. I wrote this for you. Like I promise, like this
is out of all the shit in this world that is not made for you, this is the thing that is made for you and it comes with love
and it comes with me honoring you just as you are. I really and wholly firmly believe in the power of community, especially when like
pockets of the community can like heal each other and organize and work together and
love each other very much, like the book is so much about love and the ways that we can exchange love and hold onto love with each other without giving each other a pass,
you know what I mean? And so I think that as
we move forward in love and we handle all the complicated shit that comes with it, like, the community as a whole can be stronger. And so I think if you’re invested in love and community
then Juliet Takes a Breath is the book for you. – You are a gem among humans. I am so happy to know you. God, I cannot say enough
good things about Gabby. And speaking of that
crowd of a million people, I can’t afford a million books because I make $50 a month on Patreon, but I do have five copies. – Ooh. – Of Juliet Takes a Breath which are going to go to you all. She’s gonna sign five copies of this book for five lucky people. There’s going to be a link
below in the description that says how you can get this book. So you’re not going to sign them yet. – No. – ‘Cause, because we’re going to wait to personalize them but do you want to like draw some stuff in them? (laughs) – Oh so people know? Okay.
– Yeah. – I’m just gonna make little
stars in them, oh my god. What is that even? (laughing) if you get one that looks
like I made a mistake, that– (laughing) Because I can’t draw. – It’s a sun with eyebrows. (laughing) All right, the book is
Juliet Takes a Breath, once again available on Amazon, hopefully soon to be available with every bookstore in the
country, if not the world. – If you are in Chicago it is available at Women & Children First bookstore. – Perfect, one of the best
bookstores of all time. – Yes. – And that’s all, please
subscribe, follow, do all those things on the internet. Thank you so much again
Gabby for being here. – No problem, thank you for having me. – Any time, goodbye.
– Bye. I can’t even draw a moon. (laughs) I can draw a tree. – You can draw a full moon, it’s a circle. (laughing)

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