The first paragraph hooked me right away: “It was 1947 when Mutt and I married. I was singing in Happy’s Café around on Delaware Street. He didn’t like for me to sing after we were married because he said that’s why he married me so he could support me. I said I didn’t just sing to be supported. I said I sang because it was something I had to do, but he would never understand that.”
A long overdue new edition of this important American novel has just been published by Virago. Praised by James Baldwin and Tayari Jones, and helped into print in the 1970s by Toni Morrison, Corregidora has lost none of its impact over the last 40 years.
It is 1947, and Ursa is singing the blues. Her husband wants her to stop her nightclub work now that she is married. He beats her up, leaving her unable to have children. Her recovery and relationships after her hospitalisation are at the heart of the book. But Ursa is also haunted by her family’s history, and particularly the horrific abuse suffered at the hands of the slave owner Corregidora.
I had never heard of this author before finding her in Toni Morrison’s recent collected essay, Mouth Full of Blood. This brutal novel grips right from the start, and there are no holds barred when Jones deals with women’s lives, sexuality, and the racism which infects Ursa’s past and present. I read it in a single sitting, unable to put it down.