Well-rounded and -researched portraits of the staggering chasm between rich and poor in Brazil.



On the trail of enormous wealth in Brazil—an engine of national progress or a trench of impoverishment?

As an American journalist for Bloomberg News based in São Paulo from 2010 to 2016, Cuadros became both fascinated and appalled by the excessive wealth he witnessed. While the Brazilian nouveau rich used to ape the styles of the French, now it is the United States via Miami, where much of the Latin American wealth is invested. In this “parallel universe” of billionaires, the author became acquainted with the “ladder of luxuries” such as private jets, rarefied art and cars, pricey real estate, and restaurants. In this universe, the names on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index needed to worry constantly about kidnapping and protection of family members. The two tried-and-true ways of getting rich in the Brazilian economy were by politics and/or public contracts, and while many of the billionaires Cuadros covers were mired in graft and corruption scandals, the Brazilian saying “Rouba mas faz” (he steals but he gets things done) sums up the public tolerance for them. Cuadros dutifully reveals many of the major players: Paulo Maluf, the force behind the building of the so-called Minhocão (Big Worm) freeway, has become a kind of poster boy for patronage; soy baron and former Mato Grosso Gov. Blairo Maggi routinely battled environmentalists over issues of deforestation; Roberto Marinho built the dominant Rede Globo TV network; Edir Macedo fashioned a massive Universal Church of the Kingdom of God from relentless tithing of the faithful; Eike Batista, head of OGX Petroleo e Gas, went from being the richest man in Brazil to bankrupt. The debt that many of these men owe to the acquiescence of the government, namely that of former populist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, is remarkable—e.g., what has come to light over the skimming of profits from the massive Belo Monte Dam.

Well-rounded and -researched portraits of the staggering chasm between rich and poor in Brazil.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9676-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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