Christiana Mara Coelho was born into extreme poverty in Brazil. After spending the first seven years of her life with her loving mother in the forest caves outside São Paulo and then on the city streets, where they begged for food, she and her younger brother were suddenly put up for adoption. When one door closed on the only life Christiana had ever known and on the woman who protected her with all her heart, a new one opened.
As Christina Rickardsson, she’s raised by caring adoptive parents in Sweden, far from the despairing favelas of her childhood. Accomplished and outwardly “normal,” Christina is also filled with rage over what she’s lost and having to adapt to a new reality while struggling with the traumas of her youth. When her world falls apart again as an adult, Christina returns to Brazil to finally confront her past and unlock the truth of what really happened to Christiana Mara Coelho.
This is a heartbreaking story of a child living in extreme poverty on the streets in Brazil. The things that happen to her are horrific including witnessing the murder of her best friend by the police, seeing numerous rapes, and killing another child in a fight over food.
Because this all happened as a child she didn’t clearly know or remember the reasons why they lived like they did. All she knew was that her mother loved her and her little brother but that there were also times when she wasn’t around. The children were taken to an orphanage where they were eventually not allowed to have contact with their mother and then were adopted by a couple from Sweden. Nothing that was going on was explained to her.
As an adult she decides to go back to Brazil to try to find her mother and to find out what really happened to make sense of her childhood memories.
She examines the disconnect she feels about being grateful for her good life in Sweden that wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t forcibly taken from her mother but also being angry about being separated from the person who loved her.
The book is very simply written or translated. That makes it a very stark read. It is very sad but I think it is necessary to know what is going on in the poorest parts of society. Once again in reading this book I was struck by how often male sexual violence towards women and children is considered to be an everyday thing. I hate knowing that there are women who have to submit to being raped because they are told that it is her or her child. Books like this just make me want to have a moratorium on men for a while.
“When Bloomberg News invited the young American journalist Alex Cuadros to report on Brazil’s emerging class of billionaires at the height of the historic Brazilian boom, he was poised to cover two of the biggest business stories of our time: how the giants of the developing world were triumphantly taking their place at the center of global capitalism, and how wealth inequality was changing societies everywhere. Eike Batista, a flamboyant and charismatic evangelist for the country’s new gospel of wealth, epitomized much of this rarefied sphere: In 2012, Batista ranked as the eighth-richest person in the world, was famous for his marriage to a beauty queen, and was a fixture in the Brazilian press. His constantly repeated ambition was to become the world’s richest man and to bring Brazil along with him to the top. But by 2015, Batista was bankrupt, his son Thor had been indicted for manslaughter, and Brazil its president facing impeachment, its provinces combating an epidemic, and its business and political class torn apart by scandal had become a cautionary tale of a country run aground by its elites, a tale with ominous echoes around the world.”
This is a book that I would not have picked up if I wasn’t consciously trying to read more books set in South America. I’m glad I read it.
Alex Cuadros was selected for an unusual job. He was to monitor the billionaires of Brazil. He needed to maintain an up to date list of the net worth of the richest people in Brazil. In trying to find out who these people were, he started to look at the world around him. Who owns the company that makes your soap or the roads you drive on? There may be a hidden billionaire behind it. Some billionaires weren’t so hard to find. Eike Batista was one of these. He flaunted his wealth. He bragged on Twitter whenever he moved up in the rankings of richest people. Then suddenly he lost it all.
The rise and fall of Eike Batista is told along with the stories of other Brazilian billionaires. Some are in construction or broadcasting. There is even a billionaire pastor. Cuadros brings up the question — Is is possible to amass this amount of money in an ethical way in a country with such rampant poverty? Is corruption endemic in a country founded on a system where slaves do all the work and higher classes live off of others?
I didn’t know anything about Brazilian history or politics. This was a great introduction in an engaging story. I enjoyed listening to the author narrate the book so I could hear the proper pronunciations of places and names in Portuguese.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to combine the voyeurism of watching how the super rich live with an education in the culture and politics of Brazil.