Native Bronx author talks about the intersectionality of being Latinx & Queer

By Gabriela Martinez

Gabby Rivera

Last Thursday, Mar. 30, famous writer, Gabby Rivera, who wrote Marvel’s America Chavez solo series and Juliet Takes a Breath, came to speak at KU. Dr Colleen Clemens introduced her before a room filled with students eager to hear the author in the Multipurposeroom in the McFarland Student Union. 

Gabby Rivera started her keynote speech to KU students about her own background as a queer Latina who hails from the Bronx. Her down-to-earth and joyful personality kept those in attendance glued to their seats and hanging onto her every word.

In her speech,she spoke about what it was like growing up in a Christian  Puerto Rican family. Growing up in the Evangelical Church, she found it was a great source of joy from a young age and loved going with her parents. As she got older,those around her started to notice that there was something different about her.

She said, “Queerness is something that everyone else saw in me but I didn’t see in me,” when talking about her family’s view of her when she was young and in the closet.This is an experience that many kids from the LGBTQIA+ community go through—where sometimes those around them know before the child that they might not be cisgender or straight.

Gabby Rivera introduces herself to KU students before talk
Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez

Then,Gabby brought up another common experience for some of those in the queer community who also grew up in a religious family struggle some cases, queer people who grew up Christian left the church they went to because of the realization that the church’s response to queer people was not one of inclusivity. She explained, “It’s so wild that something that I loved so much and experienced so much joy became something that wasn’t.” Her queerness is something that she doesn’t shy away from and she cements this proudness into her work, so that others can feel safe when reading.

Another big part of her speech was about her family and how big of a part they played in her writing. Thanks to her family’s support, she was more encouraged to follow her dream of publishing her book and being a writer. 

Gabby Rivera speaks on first book “Juliet Takes A Breath”
Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez

Family, and the fact that she grew up in the Bronx, led her to have this unapologetic confidence and not change who she is to fit into a box. This translates into her writing because her book, Juliet Takes a Breath, was written with English slang and non-traditional Spanish words from Puerto-Rican Spanish incorporated into it.

Overall, her goal in writing is to make a safe place for “her people,” whether that be Latinx or queer people. Gabby said, “Before this graphic novel, I don’t think I’d seen a thick brown girl who took up space.” 

This event was a great opportunity for students to be introduced to a successful author who is Latina and queer.  it was refreshing to see and speak with Gabby Rivera and many students seemed to enjoy the speech she gave.

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