Writing Chair Deborah Paredez to Publish New Book on Divas

Lisa Cochran
April 15, 2024

American Diva, a new work of literary nonfiction by Writing Chair and Associate Professor Deborah Paredez, will be published by W.W. Norton in May 2024. 

The word “diva” is an ever-shifting term that has been used at turns to both applaud and poke fun at performers such as Divine, Aretha Franklin, and the women of Labelle. Paredez mixes incisive cultural criticism with personal memoir to explore how these divas have made their way into the zeitgeist, challenging American conceptions of performance, feminism, and freedom. 

Paredez also delves into the lives of figures such as Venus and Serena Williams, Tina Turner, Celia Cruz, Rita Moreno, and Jomama Jones. Paredez recounts how these women not only made a resounding impact on her life, but also carved a new path within Brown, Black, and gay communities. 

“American Diva is a marvel,” says Professor Margo Jefferson. “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.”

American Diva is available for pre-order here

Deborah Paredez is the author of poetry collections This Side of Skin (Wings Press, 2002) and Year of the Dog (BOA Editions, 2020). She is also the author of the critical study Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory (Duke, 2009). She is the co-founder of CantoMundo, an organization focused on LatinX poetry. She has received the 2020 Writers’ League of Texas Poetry Book Award as well a New York Times New and Notable Book award. Her poetry and essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Boston Review, The New York Times, Poetry, and elsewhere.