Picador, Hardcover, 9780312252274, 224pp.
Publication Date: August 1, 2000
Discovered by Martha Divine in the backstreets of San Juan, picking over garbage, drugged out of his mind and singing boleros that transfix the listener, a fifteen year old hustler is transformed into Sirena Selena, a diva whose uncanny beauty and irrisistable voice will be their ticket to fame and fortune. Auditioning for one of the luxury hotels in the Dominican Republic, Selena casts her spell over Hugo Graubel, one of the hotel's rich investors. Graubel is a powerful man in the Republic, married with children. Silena, determined to escape the poverty and abuse s/he suffered as a child, engages Graubel in a long seduction in this mordant, intensely lyrical tragi-comedy - part masque, part cabaret - about identity (class, race, gender) and "the hunger and desire to be other things.
"Santos-Febres examines questions of sexuality and power . . . blend[ing] lyrical hyperbole with social observation . . . in her lush and tragicomic first novel." --The New York Times Book Review
"This impishly sensual novel is an often hilarious anatomy of gender confusion and reminiscent of the classic silent film The Blue Angel . . . The boy-girl Selena is as sweetly bedazzled as any hero-heroine out of a Shakespearean comedy." --Kirkus Review
"What Puig did to transform the way we think of American film, Santos-Febres has managed for Latin music. Sirena is fantastic! Like Cesaria Evora she'll come to haunt you, like Marc Anthony she'll steal your heart. The Grammys will have to invent a new category -- Best Album of the Year in Fiction." --Laura Esquivel, author of Like Water for Chocolate and The Law of Love