On March 25th, author Gabby Rivera spoke to the Hun community about her life as a Queer Latinx author and the elements that have effected and motivated her throughout her life.
Rivera told of how she looked up to her grandparents her whole life, and how the image of the pretty, straight Latina shown on TV made her worry about her future. These worries grew substantially when she saw how the media always portrayed lesbians as failures in life and pariahs, especially during the growing HIV/AIDS crisis. To combat this, Rivera wrote Juliet Takes a Breath, a novel about a chubby, queer, Latina women who loves herself for who she is.
“I fill my stories with love notes for queer kids of color,” Rivera says, “You and your magic are as bright and powerful as anyone else’s magic.”
Rivera also spoke about how she fought negativity by filling her world with her own heroes, including the first Puerto Rican Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Maria Sotomayor, and her own grandmother.
After the success of Juliet Takes a Breath, Rivera was able to work with Marvel to create America, a superhero comic book about America Chavez, a Latina queer superhero. Wanting to break away from the tough Latina stereotype, Rivera gives Chavez time to rest in the clouds, encouraging relaxation and self-love: “Daydream. Revel in joy. The warmth of the sun belongs to you” (America , Gabby Rivera). In order to write more sincerely, Rivera filled Chavez’s world by writing from her own experiences – even giving Chavez a grandmother.
After creating America, Rivera left America Chavez in the hands of Marvel and used her Marvel contacts to create her own comic book: B.B. Free. Rivera described the comic as “a comic for the kids where they can heal.”
“You’re allowed to just go. Leave no lies behind. Let all that wiggly bravery inside be the PUSH. Cuz you got a whole wide universe waiting for you, sweet babe,” says Rivera in B.B Free.
After Rivera’s speech to the whole school, students were invited to a Q&A with the author, organized in part by the GSA club. Many had different takeaways from the meet and greet. The President and Vice President of the GSA club, Daniel Brugger ‘22 and Rosie Martinez ‘21, commented on Rivera’s approachable personality.
“She made it really comfortable for everyone to ask questions,” Daniel began, “and that’s something unique – that’s what makes a speaker good: they make you comfortable enough to have a discussion with them.”
“She said that you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to other people, and talked about the process of how you ‘get up there,’” Rosie stated, “she doesn’t have one specific answer – that ‘everyone had their own pace.’ And I found that really inspirational.”
Both students commented on Rivera’s relatability as a person.
“I never felt intimidated – I always felt like it was a safe space to share,” said Daniel.
“Her talking about her personal experiences – I was able to connect with that on a personal level,” said Rosie, “because I don’t think I remember us having a latinx speaker, and she’s definitely someone I’ll never forget. She’s so raw and honest – I didn’t feel like I was in a meeting with 200 plus people, I felt like I was just talking to her.”
In the end, she emphasized that “a lot of times we think our heroes are really far away – and that’s just not true. You are allowed to have beauty and magic in your world, it is not always easy: there is much pain, there is much to be angry about. And still. Know that you are allowed to daydream, to rest, to love yourself, to find peace. That is so important.”
Be sure to follow Gabby Rivera on Instagram @QuirkyRican.