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A difficult, intricate first novel makes its US debut as part of Nebraska's Latin American Women Writers series, 12 years after its initial publication in Brazil. Risia is wandering through the forests, trying to get back to Tijucopapo, the town in which her mother was born and abandoned, hoping to find there the answers to her own embattled, disappointing life. As she trudges towards that goal, she reviews the events of her miserable childhood -- ""a scholarship student in a class of plump pink girls,"" beaten by her father, neglected by her mother, deserted by her adored aunt -- and her no less unsatisfying adulthood. Her musings, ranging from reminiscences of youthful humiliations to expressions of her earnest desire to kill either her father or his mistress, tumble out in kaleidoscopic prose that sounds something like CÉline set to a samba beat; it's full of shifting tenses, staccato rhythms, and brutally harsh imagery. A heavily pleonastic book, The Women of Tijucopapo is often rough going, but it burns with feminist rage, a triumphant, defiant anger that reaches fruition when Risia arrives at the outskirts of Tijucopapo, where she finds love with the leader of a revolution whose shock troops are the Amazon-like women of the town she has sought. Throughout, Felinto manipulates a complex series of spatial polarities contrasting the dense cityscape of Sao Paulo with the beaches of Recife and the jungle in which Risia travels. Matthews's translation is inventive, and her useful afterword places Felinto in the several literary and political streams that have nurtured her, including the works of black and Native American writers in the United States as well as those of her contemporaries in Brazil. At times frustrating, but still worth the journey for its final movement from rage to revolution.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 132pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska