American Diva: Extraordinary, Unruly, Fabulous

Norton. May 2024. 256p. ISBN 9781324035305. $27.99. BIOG
Part memoir, part critical study, Paredez’s (writing program, Columbia Univ.; Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory) discourse about what it means to be a diva restores the word’s true definition and the concept to its rightful place. She describes a diva as a woman in the spotlight, every eye fixed upon her fabulousness, every ear attuned to her voice. Paredez pays tribute to Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Jomama Jones, and many others. Her book notes that in later 20th century and early 21st century, divas in the United States were subjected to commodification; even the word itself took on a derisory connotation. But part of the point of the diva is that she is superlative; she requires no adjectives, no introductions, and certainly no arguments in her favor. Allusions to the classical definition of a hero are sprinkled throughout the book, for a diva achieves her own kind of apotheosis.
VERDICT A poetic and inspiring treatment of the diva. Best paired with a discography and a playlist of music by the profiled divas.
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