My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Carolina Maria de Jesus lived for many years in a favela (shantytown) called Canindé outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil. On paper that she gathered from the trash (mostly to sell), she wrote a diary describing her life. Needless to say, this isn’t the kind of source that we get very often. Her descriptions of living a life of dire poverty and raising three children as a single mother are really compelling. When the diary was published, it made her famous for a time, though she unfortunately died in poverty and obscurity.
Here’s a brief passage from one of her reflections that shows how life in the favela shaped her thoughts:
When I have a little money I try not to think of children who are going to ask for bread. Bread and coffee. I sent my thoughts toward the sky. I thought: can it be that people live up there? Are they better than us? Can it be that they have an advantage over us? Can it be that nations up there are as different as nations on earth? Or is there just one nation? I wonder if the favela exists there? And if up there a favela does exist, can it be that when I die I’m going to live in a favela? (43)