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Literature / Sirena Selena

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Clothed in sorrow...
Sirena Selena is the first novel by Puerto Rican author Mayra Santos-Febres. The title character is a homeless gay teen who resorts to sex work to survive. Things look up when Martha Divine, the aging drag queen who owns a gay bar, hears him sing. Impressed, Martha Divine takes him under his wing to help him become the most beautiful drag performer anyone has seen. They travel to the Dominican Republic for what Martha hopes will be a good business opportunity.

Tropes in this work

  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Within the same sentence, Sirena is referred to with masculine and feminine pronouns in her own chapters.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: In drag, Sirena Selena is an absolute beauty, thanks to Martha Divine's mentoring.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Solange and Hugo.
  • Beautiful Singing Voice: What sets La Sirena from all other drag queens around. When she is singing at Hugo’s party, all guests are transfixed.
  • Big Prick, Big Problems: La Sirena struggles with “tucking”, given that she performs in drag.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In addition to all the Gratuitous English, the chapter from the point of a gay Canadian tourist is written in English even in the Spanish version of the novel.
  • Bury Your Gays: In her POV chapter, Martha Divine mentions drag queens that lost their lives to AIDS or to violence. This applies to Valentina Frenesí.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Sirena is raised by his grandmother. When she dies, he ends up homeless and living in the streets until a drag queen by the name of Valentina Frenesí takes him in. He doesn't go hungry, but he is assaulted by a john. And then Valentina is murdered, leaving him alone.
    • Solange grew up impoverished thanks to her Alcoholic Dad.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Sirena's grandmother dies and there are no family members who could take him in. Rather than go to a group home where he would be unsafe, he chooses to live in the streets.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: La Sirena's grandmother tells a story of how when she was a young girl, there were a lot of sex workers in her neighborhood. Her father was decided to defend her and her sisters' honor. One day, he found her sister Finín making out with a sailor and along with her brother, drags her out by the hair. He ends up giving her a beating so bad that Finín rebels and becomes a sex worker for real.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Martha Divine has invested a lot of money and time in Sirena Selena. After Sirena disappears without trace, Martha is furious at first, but comes to an understanding that Sirena will do whatever it takes to survive. She still feels entitled to smack Sirena in the face if they ever meet again.
  • Gold Digger: La Sirena toward Hugo.
  • Incompatible Orientation:
    • Solange and Hugo. He married her to hide his homosexuality in a very homophobic society. He tries to love her ("I will love you, Solange, like I always wanted to love a woman.") but the time comes when he can no longer fool himself.
    • Hugo and Sirena: It becomes clear when Hugo calls Sirena "Sirenito", a masculine diminutive.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Martha lets Sirena know how stunning she herself was in her youth.
  • Meaningful Name: Sirena. In Spanish, sirena is the word for both a mermaid and a siren in Greek Mythology. Sirena plans to exploit Hugo Graubel with her vocal talents.
  • Protagonist Title: The English title, anyway which is a truncated version of the Spanish title Sirena Selena vestida de penatranslation .
  • Raised by Grandparents: Sirena, by her grandmother.
  • Rape as Backstory: While still living with Valentina Frenesí, Sirena goes off with a client who rapes her. After Valentina finds her the next day, Sirena spends the next five days in hospital.