With the recent granting of the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, Rohter’s accomplished overview proves a solid...




A timely, readable study of Brazil’s history and current prospects.

Having traveled and lived in the country since the early ’70s, New York Times culture reporter Rohter has found that Brazil’s motto of “Order and Progress”—once denigrated as “Disorder and Backwardness”—has finally come to fruition. From a country where 80 percent of the population once lived in the countryside, the other 20 in the cities, the percentages are now reversed, and Brazil’s current 200 million inhabitants make up the fifth most populous country in the world. The country also has a land area greater than the continental United States. Self-sufficient in oil and gas, the world’s foremost manufacturer of ethanol, thanks to the country’s forward-thinking use of the abundantly renewable sugarcane, and with the staggering natural resources of the Amazon at its disposal—to disastrous ecological results—Brazil is indeed a global force to be reckoned with. From the succession of military dictatorships of the late ’60s to the ’70s, accompanied by the so-called economic Brazilian Miracle of the early ’70s, to the slide into the comfortable democracy of charismatic leaders Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—the latter has been the presiding president since 2002—the country has achieved political stability and huge economic growth during the last 15 years. Rohter looks at the rich makeup of the country, starting with a (too) cursory history of the Portuguese arrival in 1500, who displaced but did not annihilate the indigenous tribes; the curse of the importation of African slaves (slavery wasn’t abolished until the 1880s); and the racial mixing that came to define Brazilian culture—curiously, the “white elite” endorsed the “whitening” of the black population for the purposes of superior “ethnic composition” well up to 1945. The author also offers an evenhanded consideration of some of Brazil’s most celebrated artifacts, including Carnaval, soccer and samba. Overall, he depicts a tolerant people intent on being taken seriously.

With the recent granting of the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, Rohter’s accomplished overview proves a solid brush-up.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-230-61887-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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