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Tipping on a Tightrope

Divas in African American Literature


Aisha Damali Lockridge

When Black runway models began throwing phones and VH1’s «Divas Live» riveted viewers, a new paradigm for Black women had fully evolved in the form of the Black Diva. Tracing the trajectory of the Diva figure from the Italian castrati to Ntozake Shange’s Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter suggests a way around staid and fixed stereotypes about Black womanhood. The Black Diva performs her demands as a quintessential act of survival in a hostile and racist world; she is both a product of and a mark against the male gaze, Black and white. Ultimately, Tipping on a Tightrope: Divas in African American Literature uses present popular culture incarnations of the Diva to detail her long relationship with Black American literary culture.