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Deborah Paredez’s AMERICAN DIVA with Angie Cruz & Saidiya Hartman

Join us for a celebration of Deborah Paredez’s American Diva: Extraordinary, Unruly, Fabulous, an impassioned homage to the divas who shook up our world and transformed American culture with their bold, dazzling artistry. In conversation with Paredez will be Angie Cruz, author of How Not to Drown in a Glass of Waterand Saidiya Hartman, author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals.

“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

This event is a $5 suggested donation ticket with 50 max attendees. Please register in advance.

In compliance with Word Up Community Safety guidelines, all attendees are encouraged to stay masked at all time. 

Recirculation, a project of Word Up Community Bookshop, is located at 876 Riverside Drive (near 160th St.) in Washington Heights, NYC. You can take the 1 train to 157th St., A/C train to 163rd St., and the M4 and M5 to Broadway and 159/160th.


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.


Deborah Paredez is the chair of the Writing Program at Columbia University. The author of American Diva: Extraordinary, Unruly, Fabulous and Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory and two poetry collections, she lives in New York. Her poetry, essays, and commentary have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, National Public Radio, Boston Review, The Georgia Review, Feminist Studies, and elsewhere. She earned a PhD in Interdisciplinary Theatre and Performance from Northwestern University and a BA in English from Trinity University. 


Angie Cruz is the author of the novels How Not to Drown in a Glass of WaterSoledadLet It Rain Coffee, and Dominicana, which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize and a Good Morning America Book Club pick. She is founder and editor in chief of Aster(ix), a literary and arts journal, and is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

Saidiya Hartman is the author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (1997; Norton, 2022); Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007) and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (Norton, 2019), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction, the Judy Grahn Prize for Lesbian Nonfiction, and the John Hope Franklin Prize. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2019.  She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Society of Literature. She is University Professor at Columbia University.


CANCELLATION POLICY: Word Up Community Bookshop reserves the right to cancel events for any reason, including but not limited to safety concerns.

CODE OF CONDUCT: Please note Word Up has a zero tolerance policy for harassment or intimidation of any kind during any event, virtual or in-person. Please read our Safe Space Policy for more information. Anyone violating these rules will be expelled from the event at the discretion of the organizers. Please report all harassment to events@wordupbooks.com immediately.

PHOTOS & RECORDING: Events may be recorded, and video and photos may be posted on our website, social media, and elsewhere. If you would prefer not to be visible, please let a Word Up team member know.

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ACCESSIBILITY: Recirculation is a wheelchair-accessible space with one ramp from the street level down to the store. Most of the shelves are on wheels and can be moved to provide additional access. The bathrooms are not yet ADA compliant and do not yet have a changing table but are gender neutral. The events are mic’d for sound and videos are captioned when possible. Free ASL interpretation is available for most programs upon request. Please email events@wordupbooks.com to request interpretation as early as possible. If you have specific questions about the space or how an event can be made more accessible to you, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@wordupbooks.com.


Jun 09 2024


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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Recirculation - a project of Word Up Community Bookshop
876 Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10032
Word Up Community Bookshop / Librería Comunitaria


Word Up Community Bookshop / Librería Comunitaria
(347) 688-4456

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