American Diva

Deborah Paredez

W.W. North & Company 2024

ISBN: 978-1-324-03530-5

Deborah Paredez, who identifies herself as a “lifelong diva devotee,” shares her personal life and a scholarly review of the makings of a “diva” in her upcoming book, “American Diva.”

Born in the 1970s, Paredez grew up in Texas surrounded by her Mexican family listening to her father’s LPs and his reel-to-reel tape player spinning out sounds that shook the “cheap drywall.” The music influenced her to become a feminist performance critic, she says. She was enthralled by the relationship between divas and feminism and other freedom movements.

She describes a “diva” as a talented and skilled woman who fearlessly defines herself. Paredez writes that she was drawn to “the brown, the freaks, the feminists, and the thespians.” She sought to understand how these females changed over time, and how they changed her.

Among the divas she profiles is Tina Turner, who recreated herself after ending an abusive relationship. Others include Celia Cruz, who challenged the male-dominated salsa singers; Selena, who influenced Mexican-American young singers, and Rita Moreno, for her dancing and her role in West Side Story. From her own family, she describes her aunt, who lived by her own rules.

From the sports world, Paredez describes Serena and Venus Williams, who fought racism on White-dominated tennis courts. She recounts one experience when Serena, still a teenager, stepped onto the court and was booed by a crowd of nearly 16,000. “The ugliness was just raining down on me, hard,” Serena wrote in her autobiography. Racist remarks were hurled at her and boos continued even after she won the set.

Paredez also shares her friendship with “Ms. Jomama Jones,” drag-queen-dancer-singer, who she defines as an extraordinary diva. Jones is the alter ego of playwright and performer Daniel Alexander Jones.

Paredez’s memoir and diva review will enlighten readers who may not be familiar with female music pioneers. It also reminds us of the long and winding road, filled with many obstacles, taken by talented women to become recognized, acknowledged and rewarded.