Troia: Mexican Memoirs

by Brenda Frazer (Bonnie Bremser)
(1969)
   Lauded as “a female on tHe road,” Troia: Mexican Memoirs is one of the most extraordinary works of Beat literature that was produced by a woman. Nancy Grace writes, “Troia stands apart as a memoir that in form and content may be the most troubling and provocative of the Beat female life stories.” The title comes from French slang meaning “whore,” derived from a negative association with Helen of Troy, but it also means “adventuress.” The memoir was republished in London as For the Love of Ray (1971), a more appropriate title that reflects the motivation for Frazer’s struggles. Sadly, it has been out of print since the first edition, but it continues to be considered an underground masterpiece by Beat enthusiasts and scholars.
   Brenda Frazer started writing the book as a series of letters from March to November 1963 to her husband, Beat poet ray bremser, while he was serving a prison sentence in New Jersey. Her editor, Michael Perkins, arranged the material into a fourpart narrative. A section of the book was published in 1967 by the literary magazine Down Here, which was put out by the Tompkins Square Press. Ann Charters’s Beat Reader (1992) excerpts the opening pages of the memoir; Frazer credits Charters with reinvigorating interest in her work. Brenda Knight’s Women of the Beat Generation (1996) includes the same section that Charters used, along with part of the book’s introduction. Another selection from Troia appears in the fifth edition of The Heath Anthology of American Literature (2006). Work on a prequel and a sequel to Troia was begun several years ago. The trilogy is tentatively entitled “Troia: Beat Chronicles.” Part of the first book of the trilogy, “Breaking out of D.C.,” was published in Richard Peabody’s A Different Beat: Writings by Women of the Beat Generation (1997). Beat scholars have often asked, “Why were there no female Kerouacs?” The general answer is that women of the time were silenced through incarceration and the social restraints of postwar U.S. society. But Frazer’s memoir defied the times. It is a candid examination of her life as a prostitute, an occupation that she feels forced to take in an effort to support her husband and their daughter, Rachel. Frazer asserts, “I thought that I was doing a revolutionary thing. . . . I felt righteous about being a prostitute. I felt like what I was doing was more honest than free love. . . . I thought prostitutes needed a spokesperson.” The memoir rejects middle-class moral codes and disfigures the codes of pornography to become a text of resistance against the conformity of what has come to be known as the “containment culture” of the American 1950s and early 1960s.
   Influenced by the prose of jack kerouac and the poetry of her husband, Frazer created a work that allowed her to become part of the Beats’ “boy gang” that she admired. Frazer says, “If I sound like Kerouac, it’s because I tried to. I read him while I was writing.” But she was also one of the handful of female Beat artists who gave a much-needed woman’s perspective of her times. Her masochism and subservience to Ray mirrors the sacrifices that women were expected to make in the dominant culture. What truly separates Frazer is her affinity for a lifestyle of risk rather than a lifestyle of security. Troia is ultimately a more radical text than On the Road. It shares with Kerouac’s novel the desire for solidarity with the indigenous people of Mexico. Unlike Kerouac’s On the Road, where the protagonist reenters society, Troia ends with Frazer embracing life on the bohemian streets.
 Bibliography
■ Grace, Nancy M. “Artista: Brenda (Bonnie) Frazer.” In Breaking the Rule of Cool: Interviewing And Reading Women Beat Writers, edited by Nancy M. Grace and Ronna C. Johnson, 109–130. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
■ ———. “Snapshots, Sand Paintings, and Celluloid: Formal Considerations in the Life Writing of Women Writers from the Beat Generation.” In Girls Who Wore Black: Women Writing the Beat Generation, edited by Ronna C. Johnson and Nancy M. Grace, 141–177. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2002.
■ Hemmer, Kurt. “The Prostitute Speaks: Brenda Frazer’s Troia: Mexican Memoirs.” Paradoxa 18 (2003): 99–117.
   Kurt Hemmer

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Frazer, Brenda — (Bonnie Bremser) (1939– )    One of the most intelligent, resourceful, and talented women of the Beat Generation, Frazer is most well known for writing the underground classic troia: mexican memoirs (1969), published as For the Love of Ray (1971) …   Encyclopedia of Beat Literature

  • Bremser, Ray — (1934–1998)    Like gregory corso and herbert huncke, Ray Bremser was educated on the streets and in prisons. charles plymell went so far as to say that Bremser was more “Beat,” in the street sense of the word than was allen ginsberg. Bremser… …   Encyclopedia of Beat Literature

  • literature — /lit euhr euh cheuhr, choor , li treuh /, n. 1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays. 2.… …   Universalium

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