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This reading group guide for The Divas: Aaliyahincludes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Best friends Diamond, India, Veronique, and Aaliyah are fifteen- year-old high schools ophomores who make up the singing group The Divine Divas. When The Divas are selected to participate in a nationwide gospel talent search that is looking for the next great teen singing stars, Aaliyah reluctantly goes along with the group. Even though she is more focused on going to college to become a nuclear physicist than on becoming a singing star, her loyalty to her friends wins out over her personal desire. When the girls qualify for the finals, they discover that the talent search has set them up with a celebrity mentor who will perform with them. The rest of the group is thrilled to discover that their mentor will be Zena, the pop singing sensation and worldwide star. Aaliyah is not quite as excited, because what the rest of the group doesn’t know is that Zena is Aaliyah’s mother, who Aaliyah claimed was dead after she left her family to pursue her career. But what begins as the biggest challenge that Aaliyah has ever faced may just turn out to be a blessing in disguise for both Aaliyah and Zena.
Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think that Aaliyah told her best friends that her mother was dead, rather than the truth that she had left her and her father for a career? Even if she didn’t tell the entire group, why didn’t she tell India, who is her BFFL?
2. With all of the excitement that surrounds Zena, especially when everyone discovers that she is Aaliyah’s mother, why doesn’t Aaliyah enjoy having a superstar mother more? Would you enjoy it if your mother were a world-famous singer?
3. Why do you think Aaliyah doesn’t want to start a new relationship with Zena when she returns?
4. Why does Zena decide that now is the time to reappear in Aaliyah’s life? What is her motivation, and why now, when Aaliyah is turning sixteen?
5. When Aaliyah is trying to get Zena to stop being the celebrity mentor for The Divine Divas, why does her father refuse to help her make Zena quit the competition?
6. Aaliyah talks about “the Big S” for “suck it up.” What do you think are some of the lessons that she learns from doing things that she doesn’t want to do? How do you think her faith in God helps her?
7. Pastor Ford tells Aaliyah that this is an opportunity for her. In what ways do you think that this is true? What are her new opportunities?
8. Of all of Aaliyah’s friends, Diamond has the strongest “star-struck” reaction to Zena, which at times annoys Aaliyah. Do you think Diamond’s reaction is selfish? Is Aaliyah’s reaction to Diamond fair?
9. When Zena confesses to Aaliyah that she hates herself for leaving, Aaliyah admits to herself that she feels slightly bad. Why?
10. Even though Aaliyah told everyone her mother was dead, she bought Mother’s Day cards for Zena and kept them. Why do you think she did this?
11. Why do you think that Aaliyah is embarrassed by Zena’s luxurious lifestyle—the limousines, the outfits, etc.?
12. Aaliyah’s father tells her that “there were blessings in every situation.” What blessings does Aaliyah discover in hers?
13. Even though she initially declines it, Aaliyah eventually accepts the Range Rover that Zena buys her for her birthday. Why? Why, after accepting the Range Rover, does she then decline when Zena wants to purchase the expensive jeans for her?
14. When Zena invites Aaliyah to brunch, she doesn’t want to go alone and brings Troy along. Why is she still uncomfortable being alone with Zena?
15. On some level, do you feel Aaliyah has really loved Zena all along and just hasn’t realized it?
Enhance Your Book Club Discussion
1. Have a contest among your friends and fellow book club members. Set a time limit and see how many all-girl singing groups each of you can name. Decide on a prize, and whoever names the most groups wins.
2. There are various resources online for aspiring singers and songwriters. As part of your discussion, work with your friends and book club members to write your own song on a subject that is important to all of you.
3. Visit iTunes, Amazon, or your favorite online music store and create a playlist that you think fits the theme of the book and the personality of Aaliyah. If you come up with something great, make playlists for Diamond, India, and Veronique as well.
4. As one of the themes of Aaliyah is motherhood, ask your mother for one of her favorite recipes and then make it for the rest of the group.
Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of more than twenty novels including: 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 the African American Literary Award for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female), Murray is also a two-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Visit her website at VictoriaChristopherMurray.com.