When Josefina accepts an invitation from the Marquessa to come stay and socialize with the intellectual and cultural elite in her royal court, she is overwhelmed by the Court’s complicated world. She finds herself having to fight off aggressive advances from the Marquessa’s husband, but is ultimately unable to stay true to her marriage vows when she becomes involved in a secret affair with the local bishop that leaves her pregnant.
Amidst this drama, Josefina finds herself unexpectedly drawn to the intellectual nuns who study and write poetry at the risk of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition that is overtaking Mexico. One nun in particular, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, teaches Josefina about poetry, writing, critical thinking, the nature and consequences of love, and the threats of the Holy Office. She is Josefina’s mentor and lynchpin for her tumultuous passage from grounded wife and mother to woman of this treacherous, confusing, and ultimately physically and intellectually fulfilling world.
The Words of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
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INTHESPRINGOF the year of Our Lord 1683, on the high and dusty plain of the City of Mexico, in the land of New Spain, I, Josefina María del Carmen Asturias, became Doña Josefina María del Carmen Asturias de Castillo. I knelt trembling before the Bishop, my eyes cast down in maidenly modesty, my new husband at my side. My lace mantilla covered my face, but I felt myself so conspicuously flushed that I imagined light gleaming through the lace and casting an intricate pattern on the altar cloth.
Don Manuel’s large hand covered mine. “I do take her to be my wife,” he said. The... see more
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Reading Group Guide
Josefina, a sheltered landowner’s wife living a quiet life in 17th century Mexico, receives an invitation from the Marquesa to act as a lady-in-waiting in the elite royal court. She is reluctant to leave her family, but the desire to move beyond her small sphere and expose herself to the intellectual and cultural pursuits she has always longed cannot be denied. Accompanied by the beautiful, cunning Angelica, Josefina finds herself stepping into a complicated world of political and personal rivalries and deceptive, licentious behavior.
Unexpectedly, Josefina finds kinship in the nuns who study the arts at the court, writing literature and poetry at the risk of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz opens Josefina’s eyes to the evocative power of words and through them, the nature and consequences of love, and the dangerous threat of the Holy Office. Josefina begins a tumultuous journey, from a secure wife and loving mother, to a woman seeking to understand her desires and dr see more