BITITA'S DIARY by Carolina Maria de Jesus


The Childhood Memoirs of Carolina Maria de Jesus
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 An evocative portrait of a childhood of abject poverty, by one of Brazil's bestselling authors. Jesus (191577) was a literary phenomenon of the 1950s. Discovered living in a shantytown by a So Paulo newspaperman, Jesus, whose nickname was Bitita, became the bestselling author in Brazilian history when the journalist helped her find a publisher for a collection of her diaries, which appeared in 1958 (and later in English as Child of the Dark). Jesus quickly became the spokesperson for Third World poverty as her book was translated into many languages, yet she died in near-obscurity and scavenging for food to eat. This rather fragmentary book, written in the 1970s and only compiled after her death, is Jesus's adult recollection of her childhood in rural Brazil in the 1920s. Like all memoirs, this one suffers from a certain amount of revisionist history-making. Her supposed five- and six-year-old ponderings about race and the unequal treatment of women by men, for instance, are at times so astute as to be unbelievable. That said, this is an impressive book, not only for Jesus's searing portraits of poverty in Brazil--a picture that editor Levine (director of Latin American Studies at the University of Miami) claims never has been so honestly drawn--but for her depictions of the crippling power of the Brazilian class structure and racial and sexual prejudice. Only the most heartless would not be moved by Jesus's recounting of the rebukes she received from relatives and others as she tried to claw her way out of the very deep social and racial hole into which she was born. Certainly not a book for mainstream America, but invaluable for scholars and historians interested the real picture of rural Brazilian life in the 1920s.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-7656-0211-3
Page count: 180pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997


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