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CBID Conversations: Author Gabby Rivera Shares Her Joy

3 MINUTE READ | October 4, 2022

CBID Conversations: Author Gabby Rivera Shares Her Joy

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and LGBTQ History Month, we welcomed author Gabby Rivera as the latest speaker in our ‘DIG In’ series. A Puerto Rican born in the Bronx and now living near Oakland, California, Gabby is best known for her trailblazing Marvel series starring America Chavez. Not only did the series feature a queer Latinx superhero, but it was also written and designed, crucially, by a queer Latinx. Gabby’s talk, titled Radical Creativity + Queer Boricua Joy, put into perspective a life that she continually tries to be joyfully open and revolutionary.

Gabby began by sharing about her mom and grandmothers and how her work's focus on those types of relationships stems from the importance of her own experiences. She spoke about the love and strength of the women who raised her and how their strength was foundational to her family and their ability to retain their Puerto Rican culture through language, food, and traditions. Gabby begins her story from a place of love because, she said, people of color are oftentimes expected to begin their tales with the pains they’ve suffered, and she wanted us to know she wasn't lacking in love.

And yet, despite the love and support she had, Gabby’s childhood in the 1980s included challenges. These challenges arose out of other people’s expectations of a girl raised in a religious household, which ran counter to what Gabby felt as a closeted queer youth, someone unable to embody what people presume of femininity, and the fears she had as the AIDS crisis unfolded during that time.

Thankfully, the women in her life always encouraged her to write and use her voice to express herself. That’s exactly what she did, eventually leading to her debut novel, Juliet Takes a Breath, which Latina magazine proclaimed the “dopest LGBTQA YA book ever”. The book was a proverbial exclamation that she was here, and being queer was who she was. 

Her family wasn't happy about it. Yet they never wavered, as every one of them—her mother, father, and grandmothers—remained steadfast in their love for her. Despite not understanding or even accepting her queerness, they didn’t leave her side. Gabby noted how critically important that was to her personally, and generally to someone who comes out because it reduces the risk of suicide by up to 80 percent. In other words, love is life-saving work. 

Some time later, Marvel noticed her book, leading to the opportunity for Gabby to write for the America Chavez series. In her work, Gabby was committed to making sure that America would be as celebrated and revered as every other traditional comic superhero. 

We’re so fortunate for Gabby to have shared her story with us, as she, despite the chaos of the world and the challenges that constantly arise, continually moves forward by looking for joy everywhere. Learn more about Gabby on her Joy Revolution podcast, which features interviews with “revolutionary humans” who share how they find, maintain, and nurture joy in their own lives. 

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Thanks for joining us, Gabby!

Posted by David Gong