Larry Blumenfeld
July 09, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Celia: My Life

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Ana Cristina Reymundo, Celia Cruz
genre
Nonfiction

We gave it a B+

With towering hair, high heels, long, painted nails, and a commanding contralto, Cuban singer Celia Cruz was larger than life. But this posthumous autobiography, uneven yet engaging, reveals a plainspoken woman beneath the wigs. The giddy innocence of her early career with Cuban dance band La Sonora Matancera shatters during the Castro revolution. There’s her wrenching 1960 flight to Mexico for a concert: ”In my heart, I knew I would never see my country again.” She didn’t, eventually settling in New York. As Cruz details her associations with Tito Puente and the Fania label, she offers tiny insights (why she punctuates her songs with cries of ”Azucar!”) and broader observations (describing young Hispanic audiences for American pop as ”dancing in borrowed shoes”).

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