What To Read After 'Juliet Takes A Breath'

by Kerri Jarema

If you've finished reading the January Bustle's American Women Book Club pick Juliet Takes a Breath and you're desperate for more books to add to your Latinx feminist reading list, we've got you covered.

A quick recap: Gabby Rivera's young adult novel follows Juliet Milagros Palante as she leaves the Bronx for the first time and heads to Portland, Oregon. She has just come out to her family and she isn't sure if her mother will ever speak to her again. But Juliet is starting an internship with her favorite author, Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism and women's bodies. At its heart, Juliet Takes a Breath is a coming-of-age story with authentic New York flavor, deep Latinx heritage and an intersectional breed of feminism that is both raw and unapologetic. And while this book is 100% its own, there are few reads that share similar themes.

Below we share some of our favorite books, both past and present, that celebrate the ideas of growing up Latinx, figuring out your feminism, celebrating diverse icons and learning more about where you fit in the world. So, whether you're just catching up or are already well-versed in the world of diverse feminist texts, have a love of fiction or non-fiction, want something new or classic, there is something here for you. And we're confident in saying that Juliet Milagros Palante would love them all, too.


'The House on Mango Street' by Sandra Cisneros

OK, we're starting with the obvious here, but if Juliet Takes a Breath was your first foray into Latinx coming-of-age tales, you need to go back and read this beloved young adult classic. Told in a series of vignettes, The House on Mango Street follows Esperanza Cordero as she grows up in Chicago. Tackling issues of race, poverty, and sexual assault, this book is a sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous look into being a young girl and making a life with the odds stacked against you.

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'Gabi, a Girl in Pieces' by Isabel Quintero

In our bookish daydreams, Juliet and Gabi are best friends, navigating the weird and wonderful aspects of growing up Queer Feminist Latinx together. Isabel Quintero's YA novel follows Gabi Hernandez as she chronicles her last year in high school in her diary. She writes about everything from college applications, to her girlfriend Cindy's pregnancy, her best friend Sebastian's coming out, her father's drug habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity. This book is everything you've ever wanted from a queer Latinx feminist novel.

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'Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina' by Raquel Cepeda

Raquel Cepeda's book explores ideas of of race, identity, and ancestral DNA among Latinx by using her own Dominican-American story as the jumping off point. In 2009, when Cepeda almost lost her estranged father to heart disease, she was terrified she’d never know the truth about her ancestry. Every time she looked in the mirror, Cepeda saw a mystery — a tapestry of races and ethnicities that came together in an ambiguous mix. With time running out, she decided to embark on an archaeological dig of sorts by using the science of ancestral DNA testing to excavate everything she could about her genetic history. This is an incredible non-fiction look into Latinx heritage for anyone interested in learning more about the culture.

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'To Selena, With Love' by Chris Perez

There are plenty of incredible Latinx memoirs and biographies to dive into, but we recommend starting with this one, about the life of Selena Quintanilla Perez, an idol of Juliet's, and one of the most celebrated women in the Latinx community. Due to her untimely death in 1995 at the age of 23, we never got a memoir written by Selena herself, but her husband and fellow band member Chris Perez shared his own take on events in To Selena, With Love. This is an intimate look behind the scenes and off the stage of a young woman who defied expectations to become the most successful and beloved artist in what was once a men's only industry. Learn more about her talents, her determination, her passion and her ferocity when it came to living her life by her own rules.

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'How to be a Chicana Role Model' by Michele Serros

This part-memoir, part essay collection, part creative manifesto explores the early life of late Chicana writer Michele Serros. Role Model focuses in on feelings of inadequacy within the Latinx community, not being able to speak the language fluently and feeling "not Latina enough" to claim your heritage. Young creative professionals will relate wholeheartedly to Serros's struggle to become a writer, working multiple jobs and dealing with a family who doesn't quite understand. And many American Latinx will probably feel the stab of recognition when Serros discusses being snubbed by other Latinx for her less than stellar Spanish speaking skills. A funny, heartfelt read about finding your place.

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'This Bridge Called My Back' by Cherríe L. Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa

This groundbreaking piece of intersectional feminist literature is a must for any Latinx reading list. This anthology is written entirely by radical, feminist women of color in a mix of styles, explores race, sexuality, language, love and identity from a Latinx lens. Although a lot has changed, evolved and shifted in the world of feminism since this book was first published in 1983, the overarching theme of demanding diverse and inclusionary feminism is more important now than ever before.

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'The Education of Margot Sanchez' by LIlliam Rivera

This soon to be releases YA novel follows Margot "Princesa" Sanchez during a summer working at her family's grocery store in the Bronx. Margot is having a hard time balancing both of her worlds: one, her fancy prep school and her new rich friends who she doesn't fully fit in with; the other a traditional Puerto Rican family with big secrets, whose business is in a poor neighborhood undergoing big changes. This book tackles the limitations that many Latinx women must endure in an often macho culture, issues of gentrification, family dynamics and staying true to yourself when everyone in the world is telling you who and what you should be. This gritty, realistic, heartfelt story hits shelves February 21, 2017.

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