Inspiring radical creativity

The Otter Student Union at California State University, Monterey Bay hosted Bronx-born, queer, Latinx author Gabby Rivera for a virtual speech, followed by a question and answer portion on March 17. Rivera penned the novel “Juliet takes a Breath” in 2016. Now, Rivera has become the first Latinx author to write for Marvel Comics with her series “America.”

“The big part of my work, the big part of who I am is connecting with folks and building community,” Rivera said. “It’s important to be aware of who we are, and how we connect with folks in different spaces in-person or virtually.”

Breaking down the stigmas of “queer,” “Latinx” and “joy,” Rivera redefined the terms to empower herself. She moved forward from carrying weight caused by harmful treatment to seeing wonder and beauty in her self-identity. Using writing as a form to recreate the world as a way in which we need it to be perceived, Rivera emphasized the necessity to accept evolving language.

“Latinx is one of those words that’s volatile and divisive,” Rivera said. “When I think of what it means to be Latinx, I think of my grandmothers. These two women who left Puerto Rico and came to the United States.”

Constantly uncovering her roots, Rivera described a reckoning feeling of joy when revolutionizing activism and the movement of energy. Seeking inspiration for “Juliet Takes a Breath,” Rivera wrote down the frustrations she felt growing up in a world where being queer was perceived as maintstream and deadly. Juliet conquers the stereotypes and lives a life of love and happiness while surrounded by positive relationships. 

“I fill my stories with love notes for queer kids of color,” Rivera said.

Rivera continues to make history with the publishing of Marvel Comic “America,” which follows America Chavez – the first Latin American LGBTQ superhero – and her luchadora grandmother Madrimar. Having read multiple comics over the years, Rivera consumed a large number of women-centered storylines to boost her creative brainwaves.

“I’m so excited for young, queer kids to grow up seeing a superhero that looks like them,” Rivera said. “She deserves to be there as much as Captain America, Iron Man and Professor X.”

Foreshadowing the growth of independent comics and comic houses merging together, Rivera sees effort being distributed into storylines of immigrants and the struggles of minorities over the white, male-dominated focus that have traditionally portrayed main roles. Finishing her talk with advice for aspiring authors, she said trusting the process and having reliable peers to edit with honesty are essential for growing and receiving criticism. 

“When you’re writing, keep reading,” Rivera said. “When you’re writing, print out your work and read it to yourself.” 

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