A well-researched and intelligent look at the world of samba and, through it, the history and modern-day culture of black Brazilians. While working as a reporter in Rio de Janeiro, the white and Mexican-born Guillermoprieto became fascinated not only with samba but black Brazil itself. She soon began to understand the two as inextricably connected--with the former as a pure embodiment of the spirit of the latter, and a source of pride and purpose amidst the meanest of living situations. Determined to learn more, she joined a samba school (""an association of individuals who unite for the sole purpose of parading together during carnival"") and eventually even took a room in a hillside favela. As a result, she got to know such characters as the hard-working Celina, who rented her body out to an egun (""the spirit of someone who had died"") every Monday, and Beato Salu, a leading community benefactor and cocaine supplier. She also learned such things as why the revered Slave Anastcia has blue eyes, how blacks cure illnesses they can't afford to bring to medical doctors, and the key rule to samba: ""There is no point if it doesn't make you smile."" All this information leaves the reader a little dizzy, as one page jumps from costume-making to samba-school politics to candomblâ€š, but sadly it does so without the vibrancy or spontaneity of its subject. On the brighter side, however, Guillermoprieto's treatment of theoretical and historical issues, such as the traditional relationship between white men and the fabled sexuality of black women, is sterling.