Note from BW of Brazil:The place of black Brazilian women in the literary world is a topic that pops up on these pages from time to time. And like other genres, this is yet another area where Brazilian society makes it appear that they don’t exist. This is far from the truth. And similar to other genres, Brazil’s black women writers also show that the only they lack is opportunity, recognition and promotion. As we often point out here, it is beyond ironic how Brazil always seeks to portray the United States as the most racist country in the world. This writer has written before and will write it again here now. Yes, there in no doubt that the US is a highly racist country, but even so, black Americans have vastly more opportunities in that country than their black Brazilian cousins have in their own nation. Well known African-American authors such Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, Terry McMillan, Sapphire and others have even had their works turned into films and plays. In an alleged ‘racial democracy’, where are the opportunities for Afro-Brazilian women authors? How many Afro-Brazilian women writers can the average Brazilian name? I would say that 95-99% of the population isn’t familiar with any.Their invisibility in the literary world is matched only by the same treatment in cinema. In terms of literature, studies also show that black female characters are rare and highly stereotyped in books written by white authors. The very reason that more black female authors are needed. A shame and a huge wasted opportunity to know other perspectives of Brazil beyond the white, mostly male, middle class experience. We are glad to present a few of these women here on the blog. Today’s material is courtesy of journalist Luciana Barreto.
Black writers in Brazil: A struggle against invisibility
By Luciana Barreto
A few years ago, Toni Morrison, the only black writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was at Flip, the Festa Literária de Paraty (Literary Festival of Paraty). It caused much furor. Do a quick search on the web and will discover that photographers and fans crowded to get whatever recording. Amid the harassment, one scene caused an impact. The award-winning American stopped the agenda for a while to receive her Brazilian colleagues. There were internationally known names, Conceição Evaristo and Lia Vieira. I mean, internationally, because both writers were not invited even once to compose the most important Literary Festival in Brazil. As Lia prefers to say, they are much celebrated outside the country, with dozens of books and huge lines for autographs in the book shows. But, around here…
This is already a abrasileirado (Brazilianized) custom. What does one say of the Carolina Maria de Jesus phenomenon? The black and favelada catadora (slum dwelling trash/scrap collector), whose centenary of birth was celebrated in 2014, is one of the most translated writers in Brazil. She attained worldwide recognition. She’s already made into a play and academic thesis. And she’s been forgotten. “The market is male, white and wealthy. They will take an interest in history that men tell. First come the men, then the white woman and, lastly, the black women writers,” says Lia Vieira.
The universe of black women’s literature is full of stories that celebrate being black. It deals with a commitment, memory, ancestry, losses, poverty and overcoming. A Brazil very distant from academia. It is a literature that annoys. “As [the writer] Éle Semog says, rhyming amor (love) with flor (flower) is soft. Now, rhyming flor with Vigário Geral (1), is difficult. Only we can,” explains Lia.
Writers already known to the publishing market, such as Ana Maria Gonçalves, Elisa Lucinda, Helena Theodoro, Miriam Alves and Cristiane Sobral, besides Conceição Evaristo and Lia Vieira work hard for recognition in Brazil. They struggle against invisibility. For Lia Vieira, “academia, the media and marketing have a lot of responsibility in this. TV programs, for example, do not invite black writers.”
Whoever is starting to venture on the same path already recognizes the difficulties. Clarissa Lima has just published her first book, Cor de Pele: valorizando as diferenças para as oportunidades serem iguais (Skin Color: valuing differences for the opportunities to be equal), and summarizes the obstacles to the black writer. “When we come to the ethnic-racial theme, woman, young, black, having never published and sold anything, it’s very complicated,” she laments.
Difficulty, complication, and overcoming obstacles are the raw material of Afro-Brazilian literature. “Our text has this transversality. From where I came from and where I’m going. But always with the look of hope.”
Bravo, Lia Vieira!
Some suggested readings
Conceição Evaristo: Poncia Vicencio, Becos da memória and Olhos d´água.
Lia Vieira: Eu, mulher, Chica da Silva and Só as mulheres sangram.
Carolina Maria de Jesus: Quarto de despejo.
Ana Maria Gonçalves: Um defeito de cor.
Elisa Lucinda: A fúria da beleza, Parem de falar mal da rotina.
Esmeralda Ribeiro: Malungos e Milongas.
Helena Theodoro: Os ibejis e o carnaval, Mito e espiritualidade – mulheres negras.
Miriam Alves: Mulher Mat(r)iz.
Cristiane Sobral: Não vou mais lavar os pratos
Lívia Natália: Preciosa
Nina Silva: InCorPoros – Nuances de Libido
Íris Amâncio: África para crianças
Clarissa Lima: Cor de Pele: valorizando as diferenças para as oportunidades serem iguais
Toni Morrison: O olho mais azul, Song of Solomon and Amada.
Source: Luciana Barreto
- A lower/lower middle class neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. The region became infamous after a 1993 masscare that left 21 persons dead.
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