In Part I, Ursa Corregidora, a woman of twenty-five, describes her marriage to Mutt Thomas, a man who tries to force her to stop singing for a living and whose violent treatment of her resulted in her having to get a hysterectomy (she was also one-month pregnant at the time). Tadpole McCormick, owner of Happy’s Cafe, where Ursa sings, visits her in the hospital. He takes her back to his home after Ursa’s released from the hospital, so that she doesn’t have to go home to Mutt. One day, Ursa tells him about her last name and explains that it came from a Portuguese slave breeder and pimp. Ursa’s grandmother was his daughter, but he had sex with her too, producing Ursa’s mother. She recounts the stories her great-grandmother told her about life with Corregidora and how he got rid of all the evidence of his crimes against her and her family. It really upsets Ursa that she cannot “make generations,” as this is what her great-grandma always told her to do so that the evidence against him could not be fully erased.
Ursa goes to stay with a friend across the street, Cat, because even though Tad clearly cares for her, she feels she cannot offer him anything since she cannot have children. Mutt’s been hanging out outside Happy’s waiting to see Ursa, but Tad won’t let him in. After Jeffy, a girl staying at Cat’s, tries to feel Ursa’s breasts, Ursa overhears a conversation between Cat and Jeffy that reveals that they are both lesbians; Ursa, uncomfortable, returns to Tadpole’s that day. Ursa and Tad sleep together that night. She goes back to work singing at Happy’s.
Ursa remembers her mother telling her that, unless she was singing for God, songs were devils. Ursa refuses to speak to Mutt, and Tad tells her that he loves her. Ursa agrees to marry him. Cat tries to explain her same-sex attraction to Ursa, saying that she used to feel foolish all day working for a white woman, and she didn’t want to come home and get in bed, only to feel foolish there as well.
In Part II, Tad asks about Ursa’s father since she only ever talks about her female relatives. Her father, apparently, died when she was young, poisoned by some other woman. Tad wants Ursa to enjoy sex with him, but he senses that she just doesn’t. They try different positions, but it doesn’t work. Soon, Tad cheats on Ursa with a girl of fifteen, Vivian. Ursa feels she has no choice but to return to living at the Drake, the hotel where she’d lived with Mutt. Tad comes back, telling her he loves her and that it was only that one time with Vivian and that he feels so guilty. Ursa rejects him, and she gets a full-time singing job at a club called the Spider.
Ursa goes home to speak with her mother, to find out about her father. Her mother describes him as good-looking and “Smooth satin black.” His name was Martin and he was kind to Correy (that’s what he called Ursa’s mother) at first; she would go and eat at the place where he worked. Her mother says, “'It was like my whole body wanted you, Ursa.” Her mother describes a later time when she saw Martin, when Ursa was two years old. He became violent with her, hitting her again and again. Then he ripped her pants and threw her out. He continues to be awful.
In Part III, Ursa reflects on getting her period and her older childhood friend, May Alice, who taught her about menstruation and sex. May Alice got pregnant when she was very young, and it really scared Ursa. Ursa’s mother wouldn’t let her continue to see May, and so she didn’t until May finally had the baby. May calls Ursa a baby and isn’t very nice to her when she gets out of the hospital, and Ursa finally cuts ties with her.
Ursa recalls first realizing that people liked to hear her sing. She remembers meeting Mutt for the first time. It sounds as though Mutt was pretty tender with her in the beginning of their relationship, wanting to wait to sleep with Ursa until she felt ready. However, he got pushy and manipulative, implying...
(The entire section is 2,277 words.)