American Diva: Extraordinary, Unruly, Fabulous (Hardcover)

American Diva: Extraordinary, Unruly, Fabulous By Deborah Paredez Cover Image
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An impassioned homage to the divas who shake up our world and transform it with their bold, dazzling artistry.

What does it mean to be a “diva”? A shifting, increasingly loaded term, it has been used to both deride and celebrate charismatic and unapologetically fierce performers like Aretha Franklin, Divine, and the women of Labelle. In this brilliant, powerful blend of incisive criticism and electric memoir, Deborah Paredez—scholar, cultural critic, and lifelong diva devotee—unravels our enduring fascination with these icons and explores how divas have challenged American ideas about feminism, performance, and freedom.

American Diva journeys into Tina Turner’s scintillating performances, Celia Cruz’s command of the male-dominated salsa world, the transcendent revival of Jomama Jones after a period of exile, and the unparalleled excellence of Venus and Serena Williams. Recounting how she and her mother endlessly watched Rita Moreno’s powerhouse portrayal of Anita in West Side Story and how she learned much about being bigger than life from her fabulous Tía Lucia, Paredez chronicles the celebrated and skilled performers who not only shaped her life but boldly expressed the aspiration for freedom among brown, Black, and gay communities. Paredez also traces the evolution of the diva through the decades, dismayed at the mid-aughts’ commodification and juvenilizing of its meaning but finding its lasting beauty and power.

Filled with sharp insights and great heart, American Diva is a spirited tribute to the power of performance and the joys of fandom.

About the Author

Deborah Paredez is the chair of the Writing Program at Columbia University. The author of Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory and two poetry collections, she lives in New York.

Praise For…

With American Diva, [Paredez] has put together an insightful ode to the famous women…who have come to embody the often misconstrued term.

— Shannon Carlin - Time

A poet's tribute to divas…A close, personal, well-informed examination of powerful women and their artistic work.
— Kirkus Reviews

American Diva is a marvel. The divas here all share a virtuosity that demands fierce labor and daring charisma. Divas use their voices and bodies to turn pain into pleasure and defeat into glory. One of Paredez’s great themes is that a diva can empower her audience—us—to reach beyond our ordinary selves. Diva ambition is potent and generous. It challenges other artists and defies cultural pieties. Deborah Paredez is the American Diva reborn as scholar, poet, and critic.

— Margo Jefferson, author of Constructing a Nervous System

In ten exquisitely crafted chapters, Deborah Paredez shows us how divas as diverse as her aunt Lucia, Rita Moreno, Aretha Franklin, and many others define our limitations and our aspirations as individuals, a nation, and a people—brown, Black, and queer. Too big, bold, beautiful, and messy to be confined within enclosures or by borders, they lead us somewhere outside, to the edge, through the abyss, to that transcendent space where we might experience something akin to freedom. Here is a book as ambitious, original, and beautiful as its subject.
— Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of Read Until You Understand

Equal parts memoir, cultural criticism, and music history, Deborah Paredez’s eloquent and thought-provoking exploration of divadom radiates with the passion, color, and magnetism of the divas she adores.
— Holly George-Warren, author of Janis: Her Life and Music

Is it possible to breathe life into the slack mouth of a term that’s been both overused and misunderstood nearly since it became common two hundred years ago? Deborah Paredez proves it is. As Paredez expands the diva definition, she presents a new vision of American culture that is, in true diva fashion, multifaceted and brazenly alive.
— Ann Powers, author of Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324035305
ISBN-10: 1324035307
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: May 21st, 2024
Pages: 256
Language: English