The Divine Divas are on their way! They won the local, and now they're all set to wow the judges at the state competition in San Francisco. This hot, hip girl group is out to set gospel music on fire.
While India Morrow is happy her BFFs included her in the Divas, she knows she's not cute like Diamond, cool like Veronique, or smart like Aaliyah. Maybe if she were supermodel-thin, like her mom, she'd stand out in a crowd, but dieting never seems to work for her. The Divas are poised to win the next level of the competition and India is scared she'll let her friends down. With only fifty-eight days to get it all right, her cousin Jill tells her the secret how to lose weight while still eating.
The pounds start falling away; India is finally getting lots of attention. If only she didn't feel bad about keeping a secret. She's scared of what her friends, parents, and Pastor Ford would say. What she's doing isn't so wrong, is it? All she wants is to be a star...but will the price be too great for her, body and soul?
About the Author
Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of more than twenty novels including: Greed; Envy; Lust; The Ex Files; Lady Jasmine; The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil; and Stand Your Ground, which was named a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Winner of nine African American Literary Awards for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female), Murray is also a four-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Visit her website at VictoriaChristopherMurray.com.
Read an Excerpt
This world wasn't made for me.
I'm too fat. Too tall. My hair is too curly. And I'm too dark at least that's what I think when I'm hanging out with my cousin from my mother's side of the family. When I'm with my other cousins, I'm way too light. Being India Morrow is sometimes really horrible.
And this was one of those times.
"Come on, India!" Diamond shouted right in my ear. She grabbed my hand and dragged me even though I wasn't ready onto the stage.
I struck the pose like I'd practiced over and over with my BFFs. I tried to smile. Just like I smiled at the Kodak Theatre two weeks ago when we officially became the Divine Divas and won that first contest.
At the Kodak, I wasn't even scared. Even though there were two thousand people there, they were two thousand people I didn't know and who didn't know me. And on that big ole stage, I couldn't even see anybody in the audience.
But today was different. All the lights were on and I could see almost every one of the faces in the school auditorium. And what was way, way worse was that they could see me.
I looked to one side and there was Aaliyah. She was like five feet eight inches of solid confidence. And on the other side of me was Diamond, looking all...well, looking like Diamond. Looking like the star that she always told us she was. Sometimes I wished I could be just like her. Or like Veronique. Or Aaliyah.
"How y'all doing, Holy Cross Prep!" Veronique waved at the kids in the audience.
They cheered. Clapped their hands. Stomped their feet. Made a roar that rumbled through the room. It sounded just like when the crowd cheered at the stadium where my dad played football. The way those big ole men screamed used to scare me. And even though I was so much older now, I was just as scared being on this stage.
I mean, it was true, I was one of the Divine Divas. And, after winning the city championships for the Glory 2 God gospel talent search, we were on our way to San Francisco to compete in the state championships. But everyone knew I wasn't as cute as Diamond. Or as cool as Veronique. Or as smart as Aaliyah. The only thing these kids knew about me was that I was too fat. And too tall. And way too light....
The music blasted through the auditorium. And even though it didn't sound as good as it did in the Kodak Theatre, we started clapping and stepping just like we'd practiced.
I had to keep talking to myself. Keep begging God to help me not trip. Help me to not really look like a big ole fool.
I concentrated on every move, following behind Veronique. I focused on singing every note, staying in harmony with my friends. And I tried to make myself as small as I could, hoping that no one would look at me and wonder what the heck I was doing on this stage.
"I don't want to go to the club," we all sang, "but I want to dance...."
We grooved to the music, hit all the notes, stepped and kicked and twirled the way we'd done at the Kodak in Hollywood. The kids moved with us, dancing and screaming as if we really were stars.
"Go, Diamond," they yelled.
"Go, Vee," they screamed.
"Go, Aaliyah," they chanted.
No one called my name.
Finally, we held our hands in the air and the music stopped. A second passed, and then it was a mad mess. The kids in the front row rushed the stage before our music teacher, Mrs. Cressna, could even stop them.
For a moment, I almost felt good. But then the kids kinda pushed me to the side to get to my friends.
"You were really great," they said to Diamond.
"I didn't know you could sing like that," they complimented Veronique.
"Are you guys going to be on TV?" they asked Aaliyah.
The way Diamond and Veronique were grinning, I could tell they were loving every moment. Even Aaliyah who always hated this stuff seemed to be kinda feeling it today.
The crowd became thick, squeezing me farther and farther away. It wasn't long before I was standing at the back of the stage, just watching, as if I wasn't even part of the group. As if I wasn't even part of the school. There were like twenty, thirty, or forty kids on the stage, but no one noticed me.
"Hey, you were good, India."
I turned around, and it took me a moment to remember this boy's name. He was in my French and math class, and the only reason I noticed him was because he was the only black guy I'd ever seen with such red hair. And he had freckles, just like me.
"Thanks," I said.
"You moved pretty good up there."
"Thanks," was all I said again. I folded my arms and lowered my head, wishing he would go away. I felt bad, but I didn't feel bad enough to want Riley to be talking to me. He was as unpopular as I was.
"I was surprised when I heard that you were one of the Divine Divas."
Now I looked at him. "Why?"
"Well" he stopped for a moment and grinned "you don't exactly look the type."
I hadn't been feeling him before, and I really wasn't feeling him now. "What type is that?" I growled, hoping that he wasn't getting ready to say what I thought.
"Well...I mean..." He looked over at Diamond, Veronique, and Aaliyah. "They look so..." Maybe it was the way my face turned red that made him stop. "Well, you know what I mean," he finished.
If I was still in elementary school, I would have beaten him up right there. But at Holy Cross Prep, you got suspended for fighting, so I couldn't do that. And I couldn't just stand there and cry either, even though that was all I wanted to do.
"Hey," Riley called as I walked away. "I didn't mean..."
I didn't stay around to hear what he didn't mean. Didn't want to. Didn't need to. I just marched right off the stage, through the aisles that were still filled with kids trying to get to the real divas. When I got to the back of the auditorium, I turned around. Seemed like my BFFs didn't even notice that I was gone.
I was so glad that the special pre-Christmas assembly to introduce the Divine Divas to the school had been called at the end of the day. We were supposed to sing, and then we were all going to hang out. But it seemed like Diamond and Veronique and Aaliyah had forgotten about that.
After I stopped at my locker, I wandered out of the school, not having any idea where I wanted to go. I wasn't ready to go home. My mother would know something was wrong, and she would just tell me what she always told me that everything was going to be all right.
At the corner of Centinela, I waited for the light to turn green. And as I waited, I tried not to look at my favorite place in the whole world. But the golden arches were right in front of my face. And I could have sworn they were calling my name.
I had promised myself that I was going to stop eating so much junk food. But I loved hamburgers and French fries the way Diamond loved clothes and fashion magazines. I always felt so much better with a hamburger in my hand. And right now, all I wanted was to feel better.
"I'll just have one," I whispered. "Only a cheeseburger. No fries," I promised myself right before I opened the front door.
But when I got to the counter, I don't know how "I'll have two double cheeseburgers, super-size fries, two apple pies, and a large strawberry shake" came out of my mouth.
It didn't even take a minute before I was sitting at one of those tiny tables all by myself.
After the first bite of my cheeseburger, I felt a little better. But it was hard to feel all the way good when I kept thinking about what had just happened. It was just way embarrassing.
When Diamond first came up with the idea for the Divine Divas, I had been so excited. Not because I could sing all that well, or because I wanted to be a star. But being in the group gave me a chance to hang out with my "best friends forever," and whenever I was with them, I felt good. During rehearsals, I had the best of times. Even the contest at the Kodak Theatre was fun, especially when my friends loved the jewelry I made for us all to wear. It was all good until we got back to school and the principal announced that we had won the competition. The Divine Divas were a hit. But I wasn't.
I sighed and reached for my other hamburger, but when I looked down, I couldn't believe that I'd eaten both of the cheeseburgers that fast. And the apple pies and most of the fries were gone, too.
Before I could decide what to do, my Kirk Franklin ring tone played on my cell phone. I've been down so long, I've been hurt for so long....
I looked at the screen it was Aaliyah. Finally my friends had noticed that I was gone. I pressed the power and turned off my phone. I was way too mad to talk, even to Aaliyah. I couldn't believe that they had played me like that.
As I stood at the counter and ordered another hamburger, I wondered if I just wasn't meant to be one of the divas. Not that I wanted to quit. My friends would never forgive me, because the singers had to stay the same throughout the competition and if I dropped out, it was over for the Divine Divas. My BFFs would never speak to me again. And if I didn't have them to hang with every day, I didn't know what I would do.
So quitting was not an option, as my dad always said. But if I was going to keep on being a Divine Diva, I had to do something. I never, ever again wanted to feel as bad as I did today.
Copyright © 2008 by Victoria Christopher Murray
Reading Group Guide
Victoria Christopher Murray
Best friends Diamond, India, Veronique, and Aaliyah are fifteen year old high school sophomores who have been friends since childhood. After forming a singing group—The Divas—in order to enter a gospel talent search and winning a preliminary contest, the girls must prepare for the next round in San Francisco. This second part of the Divas’ story is seen through the eyes of India: daughter of a former model but overweight herself, half black and half white, India doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere. Her distress and plummeting self-esteem get overshadowed by the girls’ excitement over their competition, and India’s feelings of invisibility grow stronger. She is overjoyed to learn what she thinks is a secret, beginning a cycle of binging and purging that causes her to lose weight rapidly. At first India, and everyone around her, is impressed by her shrinking size. But by the time India’s closest friends and family realize how bad things are, India is in the hospital, and the chance to continue on in the gospel talent search is put in jeopardy.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
- In the opening of the novel, India says, “This world wasn’t made for me.” What exactly makes India feel so different and alone? Have you ever felt this way, and if so, how did you deal with it?
- From the very beginning of this novel, India feels neglected by her friends. Do you think this is true? Are India’s feelings based on reality or are they self-imposed? Give examples from the novel to support your opinion.
- If you’ve read the first novel in this series, how do you think the Divas have been changed by their experiences? In what ways do you see them responding differently to situations?
- India overhears her parents arguing about her weight problem. From the conversation, it is clear that Tova wants to get India some kind of stomach surgery in order to help her lose weight, while India’s father is firmly against this plan. Why do you think he says no? How do you feel about surgery as a “quick fix” to physical problems? When might such surgery be useful and “okay?”
- Tova says that she wants to give India self-esteem and confidence by getting her the surgery she thinks she needs to be thin. Does thin equal confident? How does this equation seem supported by the events of this novel as experienced by India? What do you think about this idea?
- On page 75, Jill says, “It can’t be bad if it’s on the ‘Net.” Do you think that this is true? How does the availability of information in today’s high-tech world affect how people perceive its value? When you surf the Internet, how do you evaluate what you are seeing?
- India is thrilled to discover Jill’s “secret” for losing weight quickly. But while she seems to believe that it’s okay to vomit up her meals, she also instinctively knows that she will get into trouble if anyone finds out. What is it that keeps India from telling anyone about her great new weight loss plan? What does her behavior reveal? What other reasons might there be for keeping such a secret?
- The journalist, Nicolette, brings up the issue of models and eating disorders to Tova, who dismisses the topic as being somewhat exaggerated. How big of a problem do you think eating disorders really are in today’s world? Identify examples of unconscious bias, such as Nicolette’s comment to India about losing her “baby fat.”
- India struggles with feelings of invisibility and a desperate desire to be praised. What other characters struggle with similar feelings and what do they do about it? Identify some coping mechanisms that work and some that don’t, and explain your opinion.
- On page 198, Pastor Ford tells India that she is a star for God. What does her advice tell you about your source of self-worth and how it affects your choices? How does the way in which you determine your own value affect how you perceive yourself versus the reality? How did it affect India?
- When Pastor Ford points out to India that she is defining herself by her weight, India wonders, “How else was I supposed to define myself?” (page 195). Later, Dr. Yee asks India, “Tell me about yourself,” a request that India finds difficult to answer. Why is it so hard for her to answer Dr. Yee? How do you define yourself?
- When India’s bulimia is exposed, Tova is distraught. She thought she was just helping her daughter by encouraging her to lose weight; India took her mother’s advice as proof that Tova did not really like her because she was fat. Describe some of the things that Tova does that contributes to India’s low self-esteem. What might she have done differently? What other ways are there to be supportive of someone who is trying to change?
- Dr. Yee tells Tova that genetic predisposition seems to have some influence on whether girls develop eating disorders or not. Using evidence from the novel, make an argument for how big a role “nature” played in India’s problems, versus the role “nurturing,” or her environment, played.
- On page 251, India’s father shares with her a task his mother made him perform in childhood: every day, he had to write down one thing that he did for someone else. He tells India that, at the end of the week, seeing this list made him feel good about himself. How did this simple task affect his self-definition and self-perception? Do you think it would work to help girls like India feel better about their bodies? Why or why not?
Tips to Enhance Your Bookclub
- Once she begins therapy for her eating disorder and general self-esteem issues, India becomes more aware of all the negative things she says to herself throughout the day. What does your inner dialogue sound like? For one day, write down all of the things you say to yourself and, in the evening, make a tally of how many thoughts are positive and how many are negative. Then, for one day, try changing every negative thought into a positive one and see how it makes you feel.
- At the end of the novel, the Divas are sad to lose their competition yet still feel positive about their future as a singing group. They “kiss it up to God” and remind themselves that when God closes one door, he opens another. At your next Book Club meeting, share with your fellow members a story about a time when this saying held true for you.
- Take some time to visit and browse the official Divas websites at www.thedivinedivas.com and www.myspace.com/divinedivaseries_2008. You can also read the author’s blog at www.myspace.com/victoriachristophermurray. Come to your next Book Club meeting prepared to discuss how the Internet allows authors to bring the world of their novels to life, and how this author’s personal thoughts has or hasn’t affected your experience reading her novels.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
India is trying to become "skinny". in the book she learns how to be herself no matter what anyone said.