Eleven Books by Rio Favela Authors [BOOK REVIEW]

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For the original in Portuguese by Michel Silva published by Favela em Pauta click here.

Writer Carolina Maria de Jesus (1914-1977) left a mark on Brazilian literature with the publication of the book Child of the Dark, in 1960, in which she relayed the day to day misery of a poor, black woman—a mother, writer and favela resident—in her diary. Other published books by Carolina de Jesus include Bitita’s Diary (1982), Meu Estranho Diário (‘My Strange Diary’, 1996), Antologia Pessoal (‘Personal Anthology’, 1996), and Onde Estaes Felicidade (‘Where Are You, Happiness’, 2014).

Publishing a novel in Brazil has never been an easy task. The rigorous selectivity of publishers hampers the publication of works that could contribute to Brazilian literature by offering different perspectives, like Carolina Maria de Jesus’ work.

According to research published by the National Syndicate of Book Publishers, the sale of books in Brazil grew 14.8% in the 9th period of 2017. The data shared at the 9th Panel of Booksellers in Brazil in 2017 is based on results from Nielsen BookScan Brazil, which examines book sales in the country’s main bookshops and supermarkets.

Favela em Pauta mapped favela residents who have published books on various themes. Below, you will find authors from different favelas and of different ages with many stories to tell:

1. EFETIVO VARIÁVEL (‘Conscripted Soldier’—Alfaguara, 2017)

Jessé Andarilho, raised in Antares (West Zone)

In Efetivo Variável, the dilemmas of the character Vinícius brilliantly translate the limitations of a socially unequal and oppressive reality. Vinícius was sure that he would be discharged from the army. Because he had failed to register at age 18 as required by law, however, Vinícius did not have the right to choose and ended up in the company that did the hardest work of the battalion. Initially, Vinícius made little effort, but soon realized that his attitude harmed his fellow soldiers. He then decided to dance to the military’s tune. Washing, running, scrubbing, doing push-ups… The military routine was tough, but brought friends and purpose with it. There was only one thing he couldn’t get used to: the humiliations distributed by Sergeant Vieira. To complicate matters, Vinícius began a secret relationship with the Sergeant’s daughter. With a compelling narrative, Jessé Andarilho creates conflicts and twists that are hidden under apparent normality and gives life to a regular young man, full of aspirations, in search of himself.

2. EU SEMPRE FUI AZUL (‘I Have Always Been Blue’—Skull, 2017)

Lorhan Rocha, raised in Morro da Formiga (North Zone)

People deal with depression in different ways. Some shy away from society by staying in a dark room. Paulo is part of this category of people, but unlike the rest of them, his room is not dark; it’s blue, just like his feelings. Paulo is 17 years old and after losing his mother and falling apart from his father, he finds himself living with his grandparents, a life that is not easy, but also not as difficult as he imagined it would be. Even so, he dabbles with the infamous Blue Whale game. About to carry out the final task imposed by the game’s curator, far above Christ the Redeemer, Paulo is interrupted by Alice Silva. Could Alice be a miracle in his life? Was her appearance pure coincidence or totally intentional?

3. MINHA CIDADANIA VIOLADA ATÉ QUANDO? (‘For How Long Will My Citizenship Be Violated?’—Scortecci, 2016)

Bruno Black, raised in Fumacê (West Zone)

This book was inspired by the societal problems observed by the author, primarily in his own community. Even so, the book ends up being a portrait of the whole of Brazilian society. As such, the book intends to speak the truth and also provoke a search for solutions. While the favela where he lives goes through moments of intense armed confrontations, Bruno Black has made poetry his release, his breath, his path, and his greatest gift to the world.

4. AMOR E TRAIÇÃO NO CALABAR (‘Love and Betrayal in Calabar’—Azougue, 2012)

Joilson Pinheiro, resident of Rocinha (South Zone)

The saga revolves around two characters, Luiz Silva and Carla Almeida, who, together with Paulo, dona Catarina, Almeida, Sérgio das Flores, Mestre Canário, Marta Fagundes, and the Spaniard Julio Martinez, give life to the plot that takes place in the favela community of Calabar, in Salvador. Luiz is an active young man who comes from Cruz de Almas, and he changes the course of the community due his political and social awareness and restlessness. Jealousy and ambition are fundamental elements of this story, unleashing mysteries, betrayals, and murders.

5. A HISTÓRIA QUE EU CONTO (‘The Story I Tell’—Tramas Urbanas, 2003)

Binho Cultura, raised in Vila Aliança (West Zone)

This book talks about the attitudes of three Vila Aliança residents on creating the ‘The Story that I Tell’ Cultural Center, sparking a transformation in the community using culture for development. Through their plans and actions, they attract investments from the private and public sectors that help them raise up Vila Aliança from having one the worst Human Development Indices in the city.

6. O LIVREIRO DO ALEMÃO (‘The Bookseller of Alemão’—Panda Books, 2011)

Otávio Cesar Junior, raised in Complexo do Alemão (North Zone)

In this work, the author reveals how one book, which he found in the trash when he was 8 years old, changed his life. Resident of Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro, Otávio Cesar Junior created the “Reading is 10″—Read, Favela project in his community, which aims to teach children the pleasure of reading. Despite the violence, drug trafficking, and favela residents’ lack of resources, this story tries to prove that books have the power to transform the lives of children and young people.

7. ROCINHA EM OFF (‘Rocinha Off’—Desfecho, 2015)

Carlos Costa, raised in Rocinha (South Zone)

This book gathers stories that the media don’t know—or cannot or will not tell—through a series of “causes” that the journalist Carlos Costa remembers nostalgically. After 30 years of involvement in community movements in Rocinha, Carlos Costa, who graduated in journalism in 2007, celebrates the close of his cycle as a community leader and leaves diverse stories and causes as legacies for the history of Rocinha.

8. PALAVRAS DO MUNDO (‘Words of the World’—2017)

Rennan Leta, raised in Mata Machado, in Alto da Boa Vista (North Zone)

The book is a project that started as a Facebook page with the intention to translate the world in words. The first book has two chapters: words of Nature and words of Humanity. In the first, the author presents poetry about nature, its elements, and its phenomena. Then in the second, the author offers a poetic vision of important aspects of humanity: feelings, gestures, problems, and solutions. This is only the first step and the first translation of the world in words.

9. A VOZ DO ALEMÃO (‘The Voice of Alemão’—NVersos, 2013)

Rene Silva, raised in Morro do Adeus, in Complexo do Alemão (North Zone)

Rene Silva—the young creator of newspaper Voz da Comunidade (Voice of the Community)—describes the daily lives of residents of the favela complex on Morro do Alemão, offering a space where many voices, once silenced, can be heard and responded to. Jointly with journalist Sabrina Abreu, Silva has created a book out of his own trajectory, as well as the trajectories of many other young local residents. The reader is invited to get to know the favela, in great detail, with the brilliant story of Silva and A Voz do Alemão.

10. O MENINO DO MORRO VIROU DEUS (‘The Boy from the Favela That Became God’—Desfecho, 2015)

Bruno Rico, raised in Cajueiro (North Zone)

Based on the lyrics of The Boy from the Hill, by rap group Central Faction, this book tells the story of an invisible legend of Brazilian drug trafficking. Tired of going through the humiliations and difficulties of childhood, Julinho Faixa enters into the world of crime and becomes a great talent of the drug trade in his area. In just a few years, Julinho Faixa becomes one of the biggest drug traffickers in Brazil and, most curiously, nobody knew him as such, because he lives under a scheme that keeps him hidden, allowing him to walk the streets anonymously. But this is not easy. To get the power, political influence and omnipotence of a god is not a simple task for a weedy boy, who in his childhood was treated like a nobody. All of these difficulties shape him into an invisible and extremely powerful man, who gives orders and commands in this country.

11. ENRAIZADOS: OS HÍBRIDOS GLOBAIS (‘Rooted: The Global Hybrids’—Aeroplano, 2011)

Dudu de Morro Agudo, Nova Iguaçu (Baixada Fluminense)

This book tells the story of the roots of the movement, and this story is a demonstration of the force that hip-hop has in Brazil. This force is able to open infinite possibilities for those who get caught up in it. Dudu de Morro Agudo shares the great adventure that he and his partner, Dumontt, embark on to create the miracle, in his words, of creating this movement that today can be found across almost all of Brazil and in many countries around the world. The narration takes its diction directly from its author: consistent, blunt, and good-humored. Each passage encourages us to keep reading because it is light, agile, and stirs the reader’s curiosity.