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Child of the dark book review

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Book review of "Child of the dark" by Carolina Maria de Jesus. The incredible survival story of a mother and her children that opened the eyes of the world to the plight of the poor in 3rd world countries.

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Child of the dark book review

  1. 1. Poverty Up Close Child of the Dark by Carolina Maria de Jesus is the chilling, first hand account of life in Brazil’s favelas in the 1950’s. It is the diary of Carolina De Jesus, a black woman raising three children alone in the worst of situations. The fact that the book exists is a marvel in itself. Upon its release no one could believe that a black woman from Brazil’s poorest of the poor could possibly write such an expose’ on Brazilian life in the 1950’s. For that is exactly what this journal is, an expose’, one in which in gut wrenching fashion, the author simply and without flair, relates to the whole world the crime and corruption that took such a precedent in Brazilian politics in the 1950’s. Child of the Dark is truly an insight into life in these favelas, but perhaps, more importantly it has become and invaluable source of knowledge for historians. Upon completion of this journal, the reader becomes aware of not only the grave effect that modernization in Brazil had upon the poor and unfortunate but also the state of depravity in these favelas. Modernization is an occurring theme in 20th century Latin America. It occurred in Brazil around the 1950’s. Modernization is the process of social evolution from pre-modern thinking and philosophy to newer, more modern ideas. Modernization is oftentimes referred to as the process of urbanization and industrialization. For much of its existence Brazil was an agrarian country with an agriculturally based economy. A major change however occurred in the mid 20th century. Brazil shifted from a majority agrarian society to a predominately urban
  2. 2. one with the onset of industrialization. Urban workers became close to 80 percent of the population. As the cities became “modern” room had to be made for these factories and their workers and therefore the poor peasants were pushed out of their homes. With nowhere to go, they migrated to the outskirts of town on the hillsides and formed these favelas, which literally means a sort of Brazilian tree found on the hillsides. These houses were built on swamps and here there was no running water, no education system, no order. Instead it was utter chaos and terrible poverty. Carolina paints a vivid picture of this life in these favelas. She mundanely and simply relates her daily activities and the reader is shocked upon hearing of the dire conditions. Carolina tells of the lack of food, she talks of her selling scraps of paper for the hope of a morsel of food. She writes about her family and friends scrounging outside the stadium for leftover garbage. She candidly talks of the abuses rendered to the poor at the hands of the corrupt favelado’s or leaders of favelas. They did not even have running water! In one passage Carolina says “It was the health department. They came to show a film to the favelados on how snails transmit anemic disease. They told us not to use the river water….They asked the favelados to build bathrooms.”1 These people did not even having running water but instead were forced to drink, bathe, and urinate in the already dirty river water. To most of the world the 1950’s was a time of great economic security. The post war boom was in full flux. Much of Latin America was modernizing to 1 Carolina de Jesus, Child of the Dark (New York: Signet Classics, 2003) 52-53.
  3. 3. the great approval of many elitists. All these people saw was the modernization, the industrialization of places like Brazil. What they failed to notice, was that by so quickly changing economic and social policies, that by switching the status quo overnight, the caused the upheaval of an entire class of people and forced that class clear out their homes. Carolina is one of these unfortunates. She was forced to prostitute herself for a living, starved to death, at the mercy of corrupt local officials. Her tale is that of a survivor though. For throughout each day she is only hopeful and joyful at just the opportunity of life. Her greatest pleasure is in caring for her children. She is a true hero. Her book should be one read, studied, and treasured by all who read it. Bibliography. 1. de Jesus, Carolina. Child of the Dark. New York: Signet Classics, 2003

Book review of "Child of the dark" by Carolina Maria de Jesus. The incredible survival story of a mother and her children that opened the eyes of the world to the plight of the poor in 3rd world countries.

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