Sirena Selena A Novel

Mayra Santos-Febres; Translated by Stephen Lytle

Picador

0312263929

9780312263928

Trade Paperback

224 Pages

$17.00

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While drugged out of his mind and picking over garbage in the backstreets of San Juan, a fifteen-year-old homeless boy is singing boleros in a mesmerizing voice that transfixes anyone who listens. Hearing the silken melodies, drag queen Martha Divine is convinced that the boy's uncanny beauty and irresistible voice will be her ticket to fame and fortune. And so is born the legendary performer known as Sirena Selena.

Brought by Martha to audition for one of the luxury hotels in the Domincan Republic, Selena casts his/her spell over Hugo Graubel, one of the hotel's rich investors. Graubel is a powerful man in the Republic, married with children but hiding his true sexual nature. Sirena, determined to escape the poverty and abuses s/he suffered as a child, engages Graubel in a long seduction in this lyrical tragicomedy. Part masque, part cabaret, Mayra Santos-Febres's Sirena Selena is a novel about our most basic desires and those who exploit and are exploited by them.

REVIEWS

Praise for Sirena Selena

"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 Reviews

"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."—Laura Esquivel, author of Like Water for Chocolate and The Law of Love

"Every once in a while you come across a novel and say to yourself, This is the novel I've always wanted to read, but no one had dared write it until now. Mayra Santos-Febres's sultry and beguiling Sirena Selena is such a novel, a secret, honeyed pleasure you will dream your way through. It's brisk, funny, mordantly theatrical, sexy as hell, and utterly memorable. Its long, steamy seduction will leave you sweating with desire. Ms. Santos-Febres is an electrifying prose-stylist. Sirena Selena is a glittering gem of a book."—Paul Russell, author of The Coming Storm

"Mayra Santos-Febres is an enchantress; her words will seduce you even when the whole world is pressing on you. The erotically charged language that fuels the narrative voice is a feat, a wonder, and Santos-Febres uses it to read, in the curves and hollows of the human body, the torment, joy, and plain old mess it is to be alive."—Ernesto Mestre, author of The Lazarus Rhumba

"A magical newsreel from another quarter of the global village, where the hungry comb through the trash of American pop culture and bring forth jewels, where how you carry yourself is everything, because the self you piece together is all you have. With lyric precision, Santos-Febres sings that art is the highest form of hustling, enchantment the deadliest weapon of the dispossessed."—Mark Merlis, author of American Studies and An Arrow's Flight

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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Mayra Santos-Febres is Associate Professor of Literature at the University of Puerto Rico. She has published two books of poetry, and her short stories have won many prizes, including the 1994 Letras de Oro Prize from the University of Miami and the 1997 Juan Rulfo Prize, awarded by Radio Sarandi in Paris. In 1997 her two collections of short fiction were translated into English under the title Urban Oracles.

Stephen Lyttle has translated Laura Restrepo's Leopard in the Sun, Javier Gonzales Rubio's Loving You Was My Undoing, and Laura Esquivel's Intimate Succulencies, among others. He lives
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Mayra Santos-Febres; Translated by Stephen Lytle

  • Mayra Santos-Febres is Associate Professor of Literature at the University of Puerto Rico. She has published two books of poetry, and her short stories have won many prizes, including the 1994 Letras de Oro Prize from the University of Miami and the 1997 Juan Rulfo Prize, awarded by Radio Sarandi in Paris. In 1997 her two collections of short fiction were translated into English under the title Urban Oracles.

    Stephen Lyttle has translated Laura Restrepo's Leopard in the Sun, Javier Gonzales Rubio's Loving You Was My Undoing, and Laura Esquivel's Intimate Succulencies, among others. He lives in Los Angeles.
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