Ordinary lives rendered extraordinary by a master journalist who captures all their perplexity and quiet rebellion.



A selection of journalistic pieces from 1999 to 2007 by an accomplished Brazilian journalist, novelist, and documentary filmmaker spotlights “a country that exists only in the plural…the Brazils.”

A rigorous investigative journalist who attempts to inhabit the lives of her subjects while suppressing her own “biases, judgments, [and] worldviews,” El País columnist Brum (One Two, 2014, etc.) adheres to a method of listening carefully and letting her subjects unravel the story themselves. In the first piece, “Forest of Midwives,” the author chronicles the vivid tale of midwives in the riverlands of far northern Brazil, whose ancient skills at “baby-catching” are passed from generation to generation. Although the women don’t get paid or have a lot to eat, children are their riches: “Out here in these backwaters of death,” says one elder midwife, “either we fill the world with children or we vanish.” Brum writes eloquently of people mired in the doomed cycle of poverty, most of whom can’t get a leg up because there is no support. In “Burial of the Poor,” the author writes about Antonio, “feller of trees,” who walked to the hospital to retrieve his stillborn baby, just one of the numberless poor who “begin to be buried in life.” In the most heart-wrenching longer piece, “The Noise,” Brum tells the story of T., a longtime worker in an asbestos plant in São Paulo who was dying of mesothelioma (the “noise” was the hideous sound of his gasping for breath). Poisoned by the plant owners who knew the health danger and tried to get him to sign away indemnity (he refused), he told Blum, “I am made of asbestos.” Among many other poignant stories, the author describes the teeming underbelly of the favelas in Brasilândia, the desperately poor gold prospectors in Eldorado do Juma, a defiant elderly community in Rio de Janeiro, and a threatened clan of Indigenous people deep in the heart of the Amazon.

Ordinary lives rendered extraordinary by a master journalist who captures all their perplexity and quiet rebellion.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64445-005-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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