I N T R O D U C T I O N
I leaned against the seat and closed my eyes. Then, suddenly, it was like I was remembering
something out of a long past. I was a child, drowsy, thinking I was sleeping or dreaming.
Gayl Jones, Corregidora
Ursa’s bus ride inspired this book. The bus ride transpires quietly in the
middle of Gayl Jones’s Corregidora (1975), a story about the haunted life of
a Southern blues singer. It is during this ride that Ursa Corregidora wan-
ders to recover a lost privacy and, with it, a grip on a landscape that cannot
be encroached: a locale where she might roam without surveillance, out
of harm’s way.
The novel indeed begins in harm’s way and shuttles between private
pain and public trespass. It starts with Ursa’s hospitalization. While fight-
ing with her husband, he pushes Ursa down the stairs; she suffers a mis-
carriage and eventual hysterectomy as a result. The novel tells that story,
of private harm and recovery. The sips of chicken soup and nightly sing-
ing that bring her through. At the same time, Ursa’s private story suffers
from endless trespass. The novel moves quickly from a single- occupancy
hospital room to an overcrowded main character. As Ursa slowly heals,
the voices of family and lovers form a noisy traffic that she must amble
through. This traffic consists of stories of Old Man Corregidora, her fam-
ily’s Portuguese slave owner, now deceased, alongside familial injunctions
to reproduce, to pass down, and to not forget what he did. Joining this
traffic too are the needs of lovers, impatient with the time and form of
Ursa’s return. All of which result in a heavily encroached upon main char-
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