#BYPBookclub: Corregidora by Gayl Jones and This Hostel Life by Melatu Uche Okorie
This month, we're delighted to be offering something a little different. As it's Black History Month, we're going to be sharing more than one book for this month, we're going to showcasing a fantastic book by a black author every week.
With the recent great news of Jacaranda Books' A Quick Ting On series, a groundbreaking new black British series exploring a range of topics from young authors including Tskenya Sarah-Frazer, Tobi Kyeremateng, Sophia Tassew, Chanté Joseph and Christian Adofo, created by Magdalene Abraha, a 24-year-old publisher, we're excited to show the variety and diversity of black authors that the world has to offer. From literary fiction and commercial fiction to non-fiction and children's books, we're hoping that each week, you feel inspired, intrigued and most of all, represented.
We're now in our second week and we're talking all about Corregidora and This Hostel Life by Melatu Uche Okorie, both published by Virago.
Want to know what Corregidora is all about?
Upon publication in 1975, Corregidora was hailed as a masterpiece, winning acclaim from writers including James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and John Updike. Exploring themes such as race, sexuality and the long repercussions of slavery, this powerful novel paved the way for Beloved and The Colour Purple. Now, this lost classic is published for a new generation of readers.
Blues singer Ursa is consumed by her hatred of Corregidora, the nineteenth-century slave master who fathered both her mother and grandmother. Charged with ‘making generations’ to bear witness to the abuse embodied in the family name, Ursa Corregidora finds herself unable to keep alive this legacy when she is made sterile in a violent fight with her husband. Haunted by the ghosts of a Brazilian plantation, pained by a present of lovelessness and despair, Ursa slowly and firmly strikes her own terms with womanhood.
‘No novel about any black woman could ever be the same after this’ TONI MORRISON
‘Corregidora 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
For those of us who grew up reading the works of Nora Zeale Hurston, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, it's a wonder how Gayl Jones was never referenced in classes on American literature. Corregidora is one of those books that will stay with you long after the last page. Jones tackles the psychological legacy of slavery, sexual ownership, the often-forgotten history of breeding colonies during the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, trauma and womanhood. Despite the deeply emotional and painful story of Ursa, a power springs from the suffering. It's ultimately a story of bearing: from bearing witness to the horrors that women, particularly black women have endured and continue to endure as a result of a history built on violence and enslavement, to what it means to bear children and what it means to lose that part of one's identity, and why we should continue to tell these stories.
About the author: Gayl Jones was born in Kentucky in 1949. She attended Connecticut College and Brown University and has taught at Wellesley and the University of Michigan. She is also the author of The Healing and Eva's Man.
Seeking a modern classic? This Hostel Life by Melatu Uche Okorie is a fantastic read.
Shortlisted for the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year prize at the An Post Irish Book Awards, it has been regaled by the likes of Roddy Doyle, Emilie Pine, Sebastian Barry and Roddy Doyle. This Hostel Life tells the story of a young black woman's experiences of living in an Irish direct provision hostel, her encounters with daily racism, discrimination, prejudice and difficulty, and the truth of what migrants, particularly those from an African and Caribbean background, face living in Ireland. At the same time, This Hostel Life features a story set in the past, in Nigeria, of a woman's life destroyed by an ancient superstition.
An invigorating literary read, this book shows us what the everyday person takes for granted, the lack of freedom migrant women face, and the harsh inequalities that still exist today. Based on the author's own experiences, this story exposes a system which is inherently flawed and the lack of rights asylum seekers and migrants have when it comes to direct provision. At a time when it seems we are more divided than ever, this story, with its humour, community and sisterhood weaving throughout its stark narrative, shows there is strength and hope above it all.
About the Author: Melatu Uche Okorie is a writer and scholar. Born in Nigeria, she moved to Ireland in 2006. It was during her eight and a half years living in the direct provision system that she began to write. She has an M. Phil. in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. She is currently studying for a PhD in Education at Trinity College, Dublin. This Hostel Life is her first book.
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Writer: Mireille Harper