Last night, dozens of readers of all ages came together for an inspiring, energizing evening with author and comics creator Gabby Rivera. Rivera talked about her work and connected with students, parents, alumni and members of the extended Gordon family through a conversation led by Brown professor, and Gordon parent, Dr. Leticia Alvarado.
The conversation centered on Rivera's work with Marvel Comics for their America series, but quickly expanded to include her work as a novelist, podcaster, and thoughtful advocate for LGBTQ and Latinx representation in the media.
Gordon students put in an impressive showing during the conversation, having read both Chavez's comics work as well as her prose, and they held their own in the banter. Seventh graders, who just began writing their own novels in humanities class, were particularly full of questions, and Rivera may have volunteered to serve as a novel reader for at least one of them.
When asked about creating America Chavez's world, with imaginary institutions like Sotomayor University and its Chavela Vargas Amphitheater, Rivera spoke movingly about the joy of imagining a world where her identities were represented:
When I thought about America going to college, I had to think: is there even a college that was built with my identities in mind? What would that look like to me? So I thought of Justice Sotomayor.
And what do I want at that university? I want to explore indigenous, radical revolutionaries who've been freeing people all over the galaxy. I want the Chavela Vargas amphitheater, named after Freida Kahlo's girlfriend.
We've always been here. I am not new. I come from a legacy of queer folk, and I want to offer those Easter eggs to young folks, for college students, for older queer people who are looking for representation and finding it here in my work.
As Rivera connected with young people later in the conversation, students who may have shared some of her identities but not all of them, the impact of her infectious joy was obvious.
Rivera's talk was part of the annual Book Fair, which connects professional authors with Gordon students each year. Other guests include Grace Lin, who is honored as the 2020 Karla Harry Visiting Author, Cecil Castellucci (Plain Janes), Kat Leyh (Lumberjanes) and ten-year-old author Orion Razat, as well as the team who assembled the anthology No Voice Too Small. The final author event will be Monday's conversation with neurologist David Badre, free and open to the public, at www.gordonschool.org/badre