Diana Ross Biographies -
Turning Them Inside Out

Many Diana Ross biographies exist to inspire the public or diss and dish about the Motown megastar.

I review two such books below.

Diana Ross Biographies -
A Lifetime To Get Here:
Diana Ross: The American Dreamgirl

By Tom Adrahtas, 2006

Diana Ross biographies: A Lifetime To Get Here cover

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Diana Ross's enduring success across entertainment media is extraordinarily rare and difficult to achieve.

The same could be said about Diana Ross bios that give her credit for her accomplishments and refute much of the negativity that has warped her legacy. A Lifetime To Get Here is one.

Post-Supremes fans remain polarized by the estrangement between its surviving original members. If Mary Wilson's notorious behind-the-star accounts represent an aggressive attack, then Tom Adrahtas's book is a precise parry on Diana's behalf.

Information-wise, the book is packed. It comprehensively covers her personal life and professional path from Primettes through solo albums, concerts, and movies with narrative drive and poise. Even familiar events like the fateful Return to Love tour are presented with a sense of suspense.

When handling the singer's fabled diva-hood, the author offers reasonable explanations plus some revelations about scenarios such as her relationship with Flo Ballard. His reliance on existing interviews overlooked or presented incompletely elsewhere is a clever and convincing way to reveal detractors' agendas.

Not that the author is neutral. His analyses of the artist's actions versus her alleged intentions are thoughtful, but his speculations--such as regarding her Supreme-to-solo transition--always give her the benefit of the doubt. The opposite seems true whenever Mary comes up, with the tone turning snippy.

Still, most fans should happily indulge in this paean to Diana. Her humanity as a proud mama radiates from behind the superstar trappings. Visuals like vintage photos and concert posters complement her iconic sound, embodied in print by track descriptions and listings. Celebrity quotes and fan essays ranging from hilarious to devastatingly moving make tangible her positive effect.

What's also palpable is the sweat behind her projects: the researching of film roles, hiring of collaborators, selection of album art, designing of stage shows, and on and on. Honoring the place of Diana Ross--a black woman who "made it" in '60s America--in entertainment history may be as just as recognizing that legendarily disciplined black enterprise, Motown Records.

What if you don't care about that? What if you just want a highly readable book that, unlike other Diana Ross biographies, doesn't knock her down but simply grounds her story closer to reality?

Then this is it.

Diana Ross Biographies -
Diana Ross Memoirs: Secrets of a Sparrow

By Diana Ross, 1993

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If you're a die-hard Diana supporter, you may enjoy and recommend this book.

I am not a die-hard Diana supporter.

The Motown artist recounts her childhood, serious steps toward singing, rise at Hitsville, movie career, and beyond. Her professional progress doesn't shunt aside the personal matters, however. Readers hoping to hear about the men in her life--including boss and lover Berry Gordy--will not be disappointed.

Many chapters are brief and pretty focused, topic-wise, despite Ross's jumpy, in-the-moment style. She uses short, dreamy sentences that radiate an earnest passion for her early and later ventures.

On the downside, she sometimes gets redundant or ineloquent. (For instance, she wants girls to be well educated so "they can come out strong and make a statement about being a woman, or about abortion or whatever.") Her poetic inserts merely strive for lyricism, and she drifts into amorphous meditations toward the end of the bio.

I do admire the solitary positive thinker who takes responsibility for her life. I do like the meticulous film role researcher who critiques her projects' themes and characters. And I love the down-to-earth, makeup-free lady posing for photos in Africa. In those cases, she glows.

Yet she tries too hard to soothe fans with her "I love you alls" and tease them with provocative pictures. The Lifeline at the book's conclusion consists of not only facts, but also self-aggrandizing blurbs ("a stellar performance of her smash hit...") that annoy more than they impress.

As I implied above, my view is skewed because this ex-Supremes singer is not my favorite, even as just a performer. So published profiles like hers might not please me as much as other Motown artists' bios.

As a celebrity with many curious readers, Ross doesn't have to spare us from her secrets. Like anyone, she deserves a chance to present her story.

If only she told it better.

Meanwhile, here is my Diana Ross bio, plus my separate biography on the Supremes. Feel free to judge those articles by the standards I just set!

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