Written by Jones when she was just 26, and bought by Toni Morrison when she began working as an editor at Random House, Corregidora contains some of the best sex writing I’ve ever encountered, describing in vivid detail all of the ways that sex can entrap and harass us. It is also a harrowing depiction of the ways that the human body contains not just our personal lives but the history of our nations and their policies.— Madeleine
One of The New Yorker’s “The Best Books We Read in 2020” picks
“Jones’s great achievement is to reckon with both history and interiority, and to collapse the boundary between them.”—Anna Wiener, The New Yorker
The new edition of an American masterpiece, this is the harrowing story of Ursa Corregidora, a blues singer in the early 20th century forced to confront the inherited trauma of slavery.
A literary classic that remains vital to our understanding of the past, Corregidora is Gayl Jones’s powerful debut novel, examining womanhood, sexuality, and the psychological residue of slavery. Jones masterfully tells the story of Ursa, a Kentucky blues singer, who, in the wake of a tragic loss, confronts her maternal history and the legacy of Corregidora, the Brazilian slave master who fathered both her mother and grandmother. Consumed and haunted by her hatred of the man who irrevocably shaped her life and the lives of her family, Ursa Corregidora must come to terms with a past that is never too distant from the present.
Selected, edited, and first edited by Toni Morrison, it is “the most brutally honest and painful revelation of what has occurred, and is occurring, in the souls of Black men and women,” (James Baldwin) and “a tale as American as Mount Rushmore and as murky as the Florida swamps.” (Maya Angelou).
About the Author
Gayl Jones was born in Kentucky in 1949. She attended Connecticut College and Brown University; she has taught at Wellesley and the University of Michigan. Her books include Corregidora, Eva's Man, White Rat, Song for Anninho, and Liberating Voices: Oral Tradition in African American Literature.
"The Best American Novelist Whose Name You May Not Know"—Calvin Baker, The Atlantic
“Corregidora’s survey of trauma and overcoming has become even better and more relevant with the passage of time. It remains an indispensable point of entry into the tradition of African American writing that Gayl Jones reshaped and enriched.” —Paul Gilroy, author of The Black Atlantic
“Corregidora is a breathtaking novel that stands as one of the most important twentieth-century works of African American literature. Jones captures the web of inheritances that shaped the lives of Black women in slavery and freedom, from trauma to resilience, and from flesh to spirit. Corregidora is deeply affecting and endures in the heart and mind of readers.”
—Imani Perry, author of Looking for Lorraine
Praise for the first edition
“Corregidora is the most brutally honest and painful revelation of what has occurred, and is occurring, in the souls of Black men and women.”
“Gayl Jones has concocted a tale as American as Mount Rushmore and as murky as the Florida swamps.”
“Gayl Jones is an American writer with a powerful sense of vital inheritance, of history in the blood.”
“A first novel of great power, so emotionally raw that some readers may find it embarrassing. Corregidora has a sense of life not filtered through art . . . . Gayl Jones’s special gift is to shape experience and make it seem unshaped.”
—John Alfred Avant, The New Republic
“A fiercely concentrated story, harsh and perfectly told . . . . Original, superbly imagined, nothing about the book is simple or easily digested . . . . Gayl Jones has presented problems that are living, historical and important additions to the current American—not just black—scene. Her novels are genuinely imaginative creations.”
—Darryl Pinkney, The New Republic