Bronx native Juliet Palante lands her dream internship in Portland, Oregon, the summer after her freshman year of college.
In 2003, the 9/11 attacks are a recent memory, mixtapes are in full effect, and Juliet comes out as a lesbian to her Puerto Rican family the night before she leaves town. Bearing the pain of her mother’s disapproval, Juliet bravely moves forward (pa’lante!) in hopes of self-transformation with Harlow Brisbane, author of Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind—Juliet’s beloved “magical labia manifesto.” Curious and open, Juliet plops into Harlow’s white hippie world of polyamorous lesbians and feminism while she questions her purpose as a brown-skinned, curvy, asthmatic, Puerto Rican lesbian. When a Raging Flower reading blows up, Juliet flees, seeking refuge with her badass revolutionary cousin and her queer chosen family, further expanding her understanding of personal freedom. Diverse primary and secondary characters reflect believable communities in Portland and Miami, although the portrayal of Filipino tertiary character Phen lacks cultural texture. Rivera (America, Vol. 2: Fast and Fuertona, 2018, etc.) offers up a passionate tribute to the power of one’s voice through Juliet’s savvy and tender narration. Crucial and intense explorations of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race ring true. A white and Korean librarian love interest and a masturbation scene add sweet sensuality to Juliet’s self-discovery.
A whirlwind coming-of-age story that leaves one breathless. (Fiction. 14-adult)