Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
My rating: 0 of 5 stars
**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley**
This has honestly been the hardest review I have ever had to write. To the point that I thought about not writing it because I have so many conflicting emotions about it.
First, this is an incredible book. I loved how the racism in white feminism was pointed out, I loved that Juliet started to decolonize and had a good taste of the Queer PoC community. The characters were well thought out, the plot was strong, the writing was nearly flawless. I loved how Harlowe even understood her privilege and was still learning how to break the cycle of white women using PoC. I loved how the book challenged white feminism and it's minimal space for WoC and Transwomen.
But there was one passage that ruined it all for me. If you follow me on twitter, you've seen it and if you don't, here it is: Like wasn't once with the Native Americans enough and didn't that kind of happen by accident? The pilgrims didn't mean to kill the Indians with yellow fever or whatever, right?
It happens early on in the book and I spent the rest of my reading experience with those two sentences running non-stop in my head. I kept expecting for the author to correct the information but it never happened. In fact, while the book explores Latinx and Black oppression, the author never once circles around to talk about Native folks which I found troubling. You can bring us up but you can't correct it in later text?
Someone reached out to the author on my behalf and while they did apologize and said that they meant no harm, I can't help but feel, well, harmed.
This would have been a powerful read for me but instead I felt very othered by it. Brown and Queer but not the right kind of brown to be respectfully acknowledged.
Due to this, I have chosen not to rate this book because it doesn't feel fair to the author to rate their book when I have such conflicted emotions about it. I also can't pick myself apart and rate this book based on its Queerness while ignoring the hurt it caused to my Nativeness.
MY NOTE TO THE PUBLISHER:
Thank you for the opportunity to read JULIET TAKES A BREATH. While I have written a review for this book, I will not be rating it due to a conflict in emotions about this book. It is beautiful, yes, and powerful but I can't accurately give a rating to a book that has two very callous lines about the genocide of my people. ("Like, wasn't once with the Native Americans enough and didn't that kind of happen by accident? The pilgrims didn't mean to kill the Indians with yellow fever or whatever, right?") A friend reached out to Gabby Rivera on twitter on my behalf and while Gabby did apologize, it doesn't erase the text or the fact that it is never corrected at any point in the book. I understand that the passage was meant to show Juliet's lack of understanding about the whitewashing on American history, but if the author was going to choose to use Natives as her example (which I have no idea why she would do that since she was looking up Latinx history) then the text needed to be corrected at a later date or at least challenged by another character. While Gabby might understand that's not what happened to Native American tribes during the brutal conquests of early America, the reader might not. Too many times the displacement, slavery, and genocide of my people has been swept under the rug and chalked up to disease. I am terribly disappointed that anyone writing a book or publishing a book that includes decolonization and unlearning White History would think that 2 glib lines about genocide would be ok.
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