Whitening, the loneliness of black women, black stereotypes: In book ‘O Tapete Voador’, writer Cristiane Sobral covers many facets of the drama of black people

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Note from BW of Brazil: We must celebrate black Brazilian literature. We must fight and continue to be vocal about why these writers matter and that every Brazilian story cannot be told from the perspective of white, mostly male writers. This is why publisher such as Malê and Mazza Edições are so important, because works like that of today’s feature writer, Cristiane Sobral, that tell stories of everyday black life and black thought, are ignored in the country’s nationwide booksellers. Black Brazilians organizing to fill up movie theaters to watch the billion dollar grossing Black Panther movie show that they are starving for representation. I haven’t pick up this title yet, but just from the titles and the descriptions below, I’m gonna have to track this joint down and add to my collection! Don’t you wanna learn Portuguese?

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Cristiane Sobral: ideology and poetry in narrating the life of blacks

Drama of the black people is portrayed in a book by Cristiane Sobral

The theme is in O tapete voador (The Flying Carpet)

By Geraldo Lima

Cristiane Sobral, a poet, writer, actress, director and theater teacher, born in Rio de Janeiro and based in Brasília, is one of the most poignant voices in literatura negra brasileira (black Brazilian literature). And, in speaking of literatura negra, I speak of the literary text (poetry or prose) that, according to Zilá Bernd, in her book Introdução à literatura negra (Introduction to Black Literature) (Editora Brasiliense, 1988), “configures a privileged form of self-knowledge and reconstruction of a positive black image.”

And it is so in the 18 stories that compose the book O tapete voador (The flying carpet) (Editora Malê, 2016), by Cristiane Sobral.

In her book, Cristiane Sobral shows us how this type of narrative is proposed as an aesthetic object and, at the same time, as an instrument of consciousness-raising of the black individual about the importance of assuming their true racial and cultural identity. The confrontation, there, is against the ideology of embranquecimento (whitening).


The strategy, in this case, is to take a daily situation that exposes the problem of racial discrimination or the conflict of black Brazilian identity, in an objective, almost didactic way, so that the reader gets out of reading the text with his conscience changed or, in line with what some of the tales of O tapete voador suggest, be reborn with a new cultural identity or resist without giving up your racial convictions.

And it is consciously and courageously that Cristiane balances between these two poles (the aesthetic and the ideological) in the construction of the 18 stories that compose this book. Her skill in constructing the narrative that favors the aesthetic element and the fable is visible in the tale “Bife com batatas fritas” (Steak with French fries). In it, the aesthetic question and the social theme are well articulated, so that the reader cannot not be moved by the picture of misery and orphanhood of a child from the periphery. This is, incidentally, one of the best tales of the volume and could appear in any anthology of the best Brazilian short stories.


In the story “O limpador de janelas” (The window cleaner), what stands out is the way the narrative is constructed from very short, fragmented phrases, which makes the rhythm accelerated and surprising, giving an account of the various amorous vicissitudes of the protagonist. In the end, the character Samuel, an almost rogue, a born “catcher”, will see that the condition of black in Brazilian lands will always reserve to him/her unpleasant surprises.

Although realism prevails, some stories flirt with the fantastic, as in the tales “O galo preto” and “A samambaia” (The black rooster and The fern). The tone of sarcasm, of mockery and irony shapes some of these narratives, making even more acute and critical the author’s gaze on the episodes of racial discrimination and negation of blackness itself, as is the case of the stories “Lélio” and “Afrodisíaco” (Aphrodisiac) (in this, irony is made of the proclaimed sexual vigor of blacks). Now narrated in the third person, sometimes in the first – in this case, mostly narrated by women – the stories compose a panel of varied situations in which the black individual sees himself face to face with the question of racial prejudice, misery or the crisis of identity.

The feminine subjectivity is also a highlight in these stories of confrontation and reconstruction of the image, as in “Vox mulher” stories, in which the protagonist expresses, in a markedly poetic and intense language, her desires and her pride of being a mulher negra (black woman), and “Pixaim” (meaning ‘nappy’), in which a woman remembers, in a moving way, her past childhood in Rio de Janeiro and marked by the suffering of being forced to change her image, with the disastrous straightening of her hair, and reaffirms, already residing in Brasilia, her pride and her joy of  seeing herself in the mirror as she really is: a mature, black woman. “We can only be what we are,” she says at the end, in a clear message to those who seek to deny their origin.

In a country where the representation of the população negra (black population) is very low in the literary circuits, in which the works of the white men and white women authors circulate more freely, the work of writers such as Cristiane Sobral, in their narratives and poems to our so excluded people should be celebrated.

Geraldo Lima is a writer, playwright and screenwriter.

Source: Correio Braziliense


About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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