Meet the Queer Latina Behind 2016’s Dopest LGBT YA Book, 'Juliet Takes a Breath'

Meet the Queer Latina Behind 2016’s Dopest LGBT YA Book, 'Juliet Takes a Breath'
Julieta Salgado

How do you think a book like this one would have impacted your own life and your own journey exploring and accepting your identities?

Man, I would have thought I was rad af. It would have impacted my life tremendously. I came out in a white, lesbian college space, filled with high art, the Indigo Girls and Ani Difranco. Really white shit. As lovely as it all was and as much as the people embraced me, to know that there were Latinas who were as goofy and weird as me would have been tremendous. On the flipside, I did not feel fully welcomed in the more ‘hood dyke spaces because I wasn’t like femme or seriously AG, so, to be in the middle space, there wasn’t a lot of room in my younger years to feel connected to my own people. This book would have been really important for me. And, I mean, forget that Juliet is queer. Just seeing a story of someone that age, a girl, in this family, having a summer adventure, would have been tremendous.

What I loved is that a lot of the issues discussed here can be heavy for young folks, yet you write it in a way that is accessible but, even more intriguing, a way that is enjoyable, that you can’t put the book down. How do you think you found this balance?

‘Cause I’m a goofball, yo. I mean, that’s just how I am. That’s how I want to learn. That’s how I learn best. When I’m in situation where it’s too serious, even queer ones where everyone is checking everyone and people want to put you in the spotlight, I feel like I can’t breathe. My anxiety builds up. But if it’s welcoming when it teaches you something, when it’s a dope story, that’s where I learn. And that comes from my family. On both my mom’s and dad’s sides there are people who will have you double over laughing with stories. They mix good humor with truth. And that’s important. We should have the right to make people laugh and teach at the same time

This book has received a tremendous amount of praise. How does that feel?

I’m so happy. I’m just so happy that this story that I just had in my heart and my computer has found light and open arms and hearts. It’s tremendously humbling. My work has been rejected, shit, I have been rejected from so many spaces. The last thing I wanted was for Juliet to have that same experience. I’m just so excited. Audre Lorde said we are not supposed to survive. I’m not meant to succeed beyond my parents’ love and survive the systems in place. That’s why, for me, every connection I make, it validates the moves I make and my art. It’s a “f*** you” to the world built to hold me back.

MORE: 8 Banned Books By Latino Authors

No doubt. Now, why should folks pick up this book?

You haven’t read anything like it. I can promise you that. You should pick it up and read it because you support queer people of color, because you like good stories, because you enjoy laughing, because you want young Latinxs to succeed, because it’s an act of revolution. You should pick up this book because it deserves to be in the canon of literature right along other coming-of-age books, not just queer or Latino ones. It’s calling into question the same systems and groups of people. It’s angst. It’s a summer adventure story. It’s a first love. We give credit to white people and don’t make room for Latinx, Native, Black and Asian writers. Pick it up ‘cause you owe me one, son.

With that, if you haven’t already, pick up “Juliet Takes a Breath” on Amazon, and, if you’re in New York, join Rivera at her book signing this Saturday at Bluestockings Bookstore.