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Corregidora

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Ies they passed on to their children Gayl Jones's first novel is a gripping portrait of this harsh sexual and psychological genealogyJones's language is subtle and sinewy and her imagination sure Margo Jefferson Newswee. I am Ursa Corregidora I have tears for eyes I was made to touch my past at an early age I found it on my mother’s tiddies In her milk Let no one pollute my music I will dig out their temples I will pluck out their eyesIt’s in the blood

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Here is Gayl Jones's classic novel the tale of blues singer Ursa consumed by her hatred of the nineteenth century slave master who fathered both her grandmother and motherFrom the back cover History and fiction have yiel. This is Gayl Jones’s first novel published in 1975 It is set in the 1940s with a brief move forward to the 1960s at the end It also moves back to Brazil and a Portuguese slave owner called Simon Corregidora The protagonist is Ursa a blues singer whose line through her mother grandmother and great grandmother goes back to Corregidora The present day is set mainly in Kentucky Jones looks back on the physical enslavement of black women through the generations of one family and draws comparisons with modern cycles of abuse between men and women Jones makes clear the issues are complex; need intimacy and violence are entwined and the objectification of women takes many forms Psychological bondage is also powerful Ursa hears the stories of her forbears the brutality incest and trauma There is some emphasis on generations following and bearing witness The focal event of the book is right at the start Ursa’s husband Mutt throws her down a flight of stairs because of her refusal to stop singing Her unborn child dies and she has to have an emergency hysterectomy This means Ursa cannot bear future generations and the novel revolves around her coming to terms with what has happened and the conseuences“I am Ursa Corregidora I have tears for eyes I was made to touch my past at an early age Let no one pollute my music I will dig out their trumpets I will pluck out their eyes”Sexuality is a central theme in the present and looking back Sexual ownership continues in a form after slavery but the descriptions of sexual exploitation in slavery are powerful;“Cause tha's all they do to you was feel up on you down between your legs see what kind of genitals you had either so you could breed well or make a good whore Fuck each other or fuck them Tha's the first thing they would think about cause if you had somebody who was a good fucker you have plenty to send out into the field and then you could also make you plenty money on the side or inside”Ursa learns the secrets of the past gradually over time whilst she is herself being abused by two husbands Ursa’s own identity becomes focussed on her identity as a singer and her relationship with her audience and the significant men in her life resent this and cannot accept her sense of agency in this area; they have to have control over every part of her a different sort of slavery but the comparisons are obvious The novel is difficult and painful and the reader has nowhere to go but its message is important and it can’t be ignored Diamonds in the Snow unborn child dies and she has to have an emergency hysterectomy This means Ursa cannot bear future generations and the novel revolves around her coming to terms with what has happened and the conseuences“I am Ursa Corregidora I have tears for eyes I was made to touch my past at an early age Let no one pollute my music I will dig out their trumpets I will pluck out their eyes”Sexuality is a central theme in the present and looking back Sexual ownership continues in a form after slavery but the descriptions of sexual exploitation in slavery are powerful;“Cause tha's all they do to you was feel The Worlds Wealthiest Losers up on you down between your legs see what kind of genitals you had either so you could breed well or make a good whore Fuck each other or fuck them Tha's the first thing they would think about cause if you had somebody who was a good fucker you have plenty to send out into the field and then you could also make you plenty money on the side or inside”Ursa learns the secrets of the past gradually over time whilst she is herself being abused by two husbands Ursa’s own identity becomes focussed on her identity as a singer and her relationship with her audience and the significant men in her life resent this and cannot accept her sense of agency in this area; they have to have control over every part of her a different sort of slavery but the comparisons are obvious The novel is difficult and painful and the reader has nowhere to go but its message is important and it can’t be ignored

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Ded little about those black slave women who were mistress and breeder to their white owners There are some facts and figures but they tell us nothing about the women themselves their motives their emotions and the memor. Corregidora is an intense exploration of sex desire and history Ursa the protagonist struggles with her own sexuality her womanhood and her responsibility to bear witness to the horrible history of enslavement that her mother grandmother and great grandmother instill in her Their storytelling and passing along of this history is both a necessary way of remembering that past which has created the present and a form of abuse that prevents her from fully living her own life your roots are where you was born and you can't pull them up the only thing you can do is cut yourself away from them but they still be thereUrsa cannot escape her roots in the history of slavery rape and forced prostitution And she doesn't seem to want to She sees in her interactions with abusive men a continuation of the patterns her forebears experienced To turn away from those patterns to deny them would be to ignore the dangers that come with sexual relationships because these sexual relationships are always already relationships of power The men are abusive as a way to demonstrate their power But what power do the women have Ursa discovers finally the power that she has that her Great Gram had too It had to be sexual I was thinking it had to be something sexual that Great Gram did to Corregidora her great grandmother and grandmother's master and lover I knew it had to be sexual 'What is it a woman can do to a man that make him hate her so bad he wont to kill her one minute and keep thinking about her and can't get her out of his mind the next' In a split second I knew what it was and I think he Mutt her lover and ex husband might have known too A moment of pleasure and excruciating pain at the same time a moment of broken skin but not sexlessness a moment just before sexlessness a moment that stops before it breaks the skin 'I could kill you' The best Ursa can do in relation to the history that she cannot escape is to claim the control she can within this relationship She says in the end It was like I didn't know how much was me and Mutt and how much was Great Gram and Corregidora like Mama when she had started talking like Great Gram But was what Corregidora had done to her to them any worse than what Mutt had done to me than what we had done to each other than what Mama had done to Daddy or what he had done to her in return making her walk down the street looking like a whore Although the plot of Corregidora that drives forward focuses on desire and Ursa's romantic relationships the real driving force of the novel is the past and its inescapability Ursa and Mutt Ursa and Tadpole Great Gram and Gram and Corregidora Mama and Martin and every other relationship in the book all are tainted by the past Mutt tries to tell Ursa Whichever way you look at it we ain't them but she knows that's not true She feels a deep connection to the previous generations of women who have been abused and treated as sex objects Great Gram describes what it was like on Corregidora's place when he whored her out to his white friends when he send them white mens in there to me he didn't look like that cause he be nodding and saying what a fine piece I was said I was a fine speciment of a woman finest speciment of a woman he ever seen in his life said he had tested me out hisself and then they would be laughing you know when they come in there to me Cause tha's all they do to you was feel up on you down between your legs see what kind of genitals you had either so you could breed well or make a good whore Fuck each other or fuck them This attitude toward women is not so terribly different from the one that Ursa encounters every day Men see her as a piece of ass not hesitating in the least to walk up to her and say I bet you got some good pussy and expect her to welcome them with open arms and legs Given this Ursa's responsibility as handed down by her mother grandmother and great grandmother is to bear witness by bearing children and passing these lessons on to them But after an injury caused by her husband's abuse Ursa cannot bear children She cannot bear generations She cannot pass these lessons on One important uestion the book raises through this turn of events is whether or not these lessons should be passed on Forget what they went throughI can't forgetForget what you been throughI can't forget The space between my thighs A well that never bleedsAnd who are you fuckingNo one Silence in my womb My breasts uiver like old applesForget the pastBut Ursa cannot forget And she cannot pass these stories along Perhaps in the end this is best Perhaps as in Toni Morrison's Beloved this is not a story to pass on Perhaps healing can only come with separation from this past Perhaps only with separation and the willingness to stop telling the old stories can men and women stop hurting each other Corregidora provides no clear answer to this speculation What it does do is provide a haunting illustration of the pain that these old stories are built on and the pain that they carry with them even into the present The greatest mentors in the Bible us nothing about the women themselves their motives their emotions and the memor. Corregidora is an intense exploration of sex desire and history Ursa the protagonist struggles with her own sexuality her womanhood and her responsibility to bear witness to the horrible history of enslavement that her mother grandmother and great grandmother instill in her Their storytelling and passing along of this history is both a necessary way of remembering that past which has created the present and a form of abuse that prevents her from fully living her own life your roots are where you was born and you can't pull them Gay on a Dare up the only thing you can do is cut yourself away from them but they still be thereUrsa cannot escape her roots in the history of slavery rape and forced prostitution And she doesn't seem to want to She sees in her interactions with abusive men a continuation of the patterns her forebears experienced To turn away from those patterns to deny them would be to ignore the dangers that come with sexual relationships because these sexual relationships are always already relationships of power The men are abusive as a way to demonstrate their power But what power do the women have Ursa discovers finally the power that she has that her Great Gram had too It had to be sexual I was thinking it had to be something sexual that Great Gram did to Corregidora her great grandmother and grandmother's master and lover I knew it had to be sexual 'What is it a woman can do to a man that make him hate her so bad he wont to kill her one minute and keep thinking about her and can't get her out of his mind the next' In a split second I knew what it was and I think he Mutt her lover and ex husband might have known too A moment of pleasure and excruciating pain at the same time a moment of broken skin but not sexlessness a moment just before sexlessness a moment that stops before it breaks the skin 'I could kill you' The best Ursa can do in relation to the history that she cannot escape is to claim the control she can within this relationship She says in the end It was like I didn't know how much was me and Mutt and how much was Great Gram and Corregidora like Mama when she had started talking like Great Gram But was what Corregidora had done to her to them any worse than what Mutt had done to me than what we had done to each other than what Mama had done to Daddy or what he had done to her in return making her walk down the street looking like a whore Although the plot of Corregidora that drives forward focuses on desire and Ursa's romantic relationships the real driving force of the novel is the past and its inescapability Ursa and Mutt Ursa and Tadpole Great Gram and Gram and Corregidora Mama and Martin and every other relationship in the book all are tainted by the past Mutt tries to tell Ursa Whichever way you look at it we ain't them but she knows that's not true She feels a deep connection to the previous generations of women who have been abused and treated as sex objects Great Gram describes what it was like on Corregidora's place when he whored her out to his white friends when he send them white mens in there to me he didn't look like that cause he be nodding and saying what a fine piece I was said I was a fine speciment of a woman finest speciment of a woman he ever seen in his life said he had tested me out hisself and then they would be laughing you know when they come in there to me Cause tha's all they do to you was feel Cooking for Beginners up on you down between your legs see what kind of genitals you had either so you could breed well or make a good whore Fuck each other or fuck them This attitude toward women is not so terribly different from the one that Ursa encounters every day Men see her as a piece of ass not hesitating in the least to walk By His Own Might up to her and say I bet you got some good pussy and expect her to welcome them with open arms and legs Given this Ursa's responsibility as handed down by her mother grandmother and great grandmother is to bear witness by bearing children and passing these lessons on to them But after an injury caused by her husband's abuse Ursa cannot bear children She cannot bear generations She cannot pass these lessons on One important Une vie motivée par l'essentiel : Pourquoi suis-je sur Terre ? uestion the book raises through this turn of events is whether or not these lessons should be passed on Forget what they went throughI can't forgetForget what you been throughI can't forget The space between my thighs A well that never bleedsAnd who are you fuckingNo one Silence in my womb My breasts Icon and Logos uiver like old applesForget the pastBut Ursa cannot forget And she cannot pass these stories along Perhaps in the end this is best Perhaps as in Toni Morrison's Beloved this is not a story to pass on Perhaps healing can only come with separation from this past Perhaps only with separation and the willingness to stop telling the old stories can men and women stop hurting each other Corregidora provides no clear answer to this speculation What it does do is provide a haunting illustration of the pain that these old stories are built on and the pain that they carry with them even into the present