Child of the Dark - Carolina Maria de Jesus

Child of the Dark Brazil

  • Book:  “Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus”
  • Author:  Carolina Maria de Jesus
  • Publisher:  Signet Classics, 2003

If you ever wondered what’s the reality behind the closed doors of a Brazilian favela – here’s your chance to find out more from the first-person account of someone who actually lived there.  The author, Carolina Maria de Jesus, is the first black woman that was published in Brazil and the first voice to have come from a favela.

Carolina was born poor, and with only two years of schooling she managed to learn how to read and to write.  These two important skills have served her throughout her life as her only solace and escape from the miserable daily-life that she led in a favela, and later as the only chance for a somewhat better life.

This book is an authentic diary of a person who struggled to navigate through the layers of bureaucracy, racism, and un-equality that still constitutes the face of the modern Brazil.  The book is about Carolina’s daily struggle to provide food on her table for her and her three little children.  The book is also about the complexity and the hidden, inner World of the underground society that inhabits Brazilian favelas.

Why do people live in favelas, how do they end up there, what goes on in the daily life of a favela, and first of all – how do they live, is reflected in this small but immensely significant diary of a poor, simple, but real woman.

This is not a happy book – this book is about a personal tragedy, miserable existence, struggle for survival, and the tiny rays of light that Carolina manages to discover and get happy about.  If you are looking for a dose of a harsh, unobstructed, and unsweetened reality in order to understand Brazil (and the World) a little bit better – this book is for you.

“I came here to ask for help because I’m ill.  You sent me to Brigadeiro Luis Antonio Avenue, and I went.  There they sent me to the Santa Casa.  And I spent all the money I have on transportation.”

“Take her!”

They wouldn’t let me leave.  A soldier put his bayonet at my chest.  I looked the soldier in the eyes and saw that he had pity on me.  I told him:

“I am poor.  That’s why I came here.”

Dr. Osvaldo de Barros entered, a false philanthropist in São Paulo who is masquerading as St. Vincent de Paul. He said:

“Call a squad car!”

The policeman took me back to the favela and warned me that the next time I made a scene at the welfare agency I would be locked up.

Welfare agency!  Welfare for whom?

May 23 I got up feeling sad this morning because it was raining.  The shack is in terrible disorder.  And I don’t have soap to was the dishes.  I say “dishes” from force of habit.  But they are really tin cans.  If I had soap I would wash the clothes.  I’m really not negligent.  If I walk around dirty it’s because I’m trapped in the life of a favelado.  I’ve come to the conclusion that for those who aren’t going to Heaven, it doesn’t help to look up.  It’s the same with us who don’t like the favela, but are obliged to live in one… It doesn’t help to look up.” (p. 35) 

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