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The Life and Death of Carolina Maria de Jesus

By Robert LevineJosé Carlos Sebe Bom Meihy

Details

Overview

In the dozen years Carolina Maria de Jesus (1914-1977) lived in a Sáo Paulo, Brazil, shanty slum, she survived by rummaging for junk. She also kept a diary of her abject poverty. Black, illegitimate, and poor, she suddenly became at age forty-six Brazil's best-selling author when a book drawn from her diaries appeared in 1960. An English translation, Child of the Dark, was published in 1962 and sold over 300,000 copies in the United States in a decade. Newsweek heralded her book as "a desperate, terrifying outcry from the slums of Sáo Paulo . . . one of the most astonishing documents of the lower depths ever printed."

Collaborating with a Brazilian colleague, Levine tells the story of Carolina's life, giving particular emphasis to the years following her publishing success, and engages in a provocative debate over what Carolina's life reveals about such issues as racism in Brazil, the rigidity of the country's class system, and the process of constructing an identity amid constant degradation and poverty.

Contributor Bios
Robert M. Levine is director of the Center for Latin American Studies, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
Historian José Carlos Sebe Bom Meihy, of the University of São Paulo, is a co-founder of the Brazilian Oral History Association.
Lyman L. Johnson is professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is also the general editor for UNM Press's Dialogos series.