I connect this book to Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred for a couple of reasons. For one, they’re both published by Blue Streak, with these stark cover and similar covers. So that’s a shallow reason, but it plants the seed in my mind for how they’re alike. Both books are also written in the 1970s, by Black women, and deal with a contemporary (or recent contemporary for Gayl Jones’s book) displacement and a deep discomfort with the past, especially the racial and genetic past of the protagonists.
We begin Corregidora with our protagonist in a bad marriage about to get worse, a club singer who is married to a violent man who demands that she give up singing. When she refuses to do exactly as he likes, he beats her up and throws her down the stairs. In her recovery she learns that she is the target of so many different people’s expectations, that she can barely function at times from the overwhelming set of pressures. From her new caretaker’s refusal to be all that sympathetic for her situation, to women all over her life basically treating this failed marriage as a life sentence that our protagonist must stay with out of penance for making a choice, to even her own belief that her genetic history being a haunting and controlling influence on her life. We are treated to conversations between her and her grandmother, who when she was very young was born into slavery, but specifically to a pimp who “bred” women to become sex-trafficked. His name, Corregidora, now our protagonist’s name, is both a badge and an anchor that still controls her today.
It’s haunting book because of the violence, because of the bleak material, but also because of the ways in which the novel exists mostly in impressions and conversations, than in plotted action. It’s beautifully written and devastating to read.