Space Between the Stars:
My Journey to an Open Heart

by Deborah Santana


Random House, 2005. ISBN 0345471253.
Reviewed by Marti Weisbrich
Posted on 08/31/2006

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

Space Between the Stars: My Journey to an Open Heart by Deborah Santana is an honest, sharply defined yet lyrical look at a woman trying to find her place in the world of stardom. Her vivid descriptive words cut through the facade of celebrity to show a woman who is at first, only glimpsed backstage. Deborah sees herself as the space between two stars, first as the lover of Sly of Sly and the Family Stone and later as the wife of Carlos Santana.

This is an incandescent memoir, and one that I was compelled to read for jealous reasons. Carlos Santana is one of my cultural icons, and I had to know this woman he chose to marry. How fortunate a woman she must be, I thought, to have caught the heart of Carlos Santana. After reading this book, I can say that Carlos is fortunate that Deborah is his wife, for she is a star in her own right, wise, compassionate, giving, honest and spiritual.

A product of growing up in the 1970s, Deborah felt the age-old conflict of the 1970s feminist movement that stated you do not need a man to be whole, contrasted with the provincial Christian teachings of woman as helpmate to a husband. The title of her memoir is so fitting. Deborah says she heard of this concept after reading an essay by Norman Vincent Peale. She writes, "...The phrase struck me for I was a woman in between men who outshone me because of their fame and I struggled to be seen and heard."

Grappling not only with her place in the world of celebrity, Deborah also confronts the fact that she is biracial. Her mother, Jo Frances, is a beautiful, no-nonsense Irish woman, and her father was the black blues musician Saunders King. From her mother, she learns compassion and understanding, for her mother was not impressed with fame. Jo taught Deborah that a person's worth is measured by their kindness, their faith in God and their character. Deborah's father is described as a "flinty observer of life," who bravely defied the prejudice found in Southern nightclubs in the 1940s. Nightclubs used to segregate the dance floor by placing a rope down the center, whites on one side, blacks on the other. Through the strong love and courage of her parents, Deborah learns to accept the fact of her duality, stating, "We are our skin, but so much more."

Her coming-of-age story is a harrowing glimpse into the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. From the brutally honest depiction of her life on drugs with Sly Stone to the sweetly deceptive, magnetic years with Carlos Santana, Deborah stays true to her inner voice but cannot find a way to let her voice be heard. Struggling to find her place beyond the label of wife of Carlos Santana, mother of his children, she takes control of his career and gradually finds that she is a strong, capable woman. Enrolling in a writng class taught by Natalie Goldberg, she begins the journey to self-discovery that finally results, after seven years, in the writing of her memoir. In the end, she is no longer a space between the stars, but shines in her own right.

For an added bonus, check out Deborah's website, and listen to her voice welcome you to the reading of her memoir.

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