Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink

Juliana Barbassa. Touchstone, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5625-7
After a two-decade absence, Barbassa returned to her native Brazil in 2010 as the Associated Press’s Rio de Janeiro correspondent, providing the impetus for this overstuffed but fascinating urban chronicle. She arrived just in time for a confrontation between the Pacification Police Units and the Red Command gang, which ruled the favelas. Barbassa reports on the 2011 flood that claimed 1,000 lives; the 2012 closing of one of South America’s largest landfills, the Gramacho; and the “world’s largest gay wedding” in 2013. She speaks to “anyone who would speak to [her]: taxi drivers, university researchers, cops who wouldn’t give their names, local crime reporters,” as well as politicians, government officials, gang members, environmentalists, restaurateurs, shipyard managers, notaries, and barbers. In between visiting favelas and gated communities, Barbassa touches on issues broad (taxes, immigration, prostitution, homosexuality) and narrow (her own housing problems). So many people and subjects move through the book’s pages that the portrait of “this southern giant” becomes cluttered. Expert as Barbassa is with words, the book’s breadth can feel like a liability. But even readers whose interest flags at times will come away with a sense of having been there. Agent: David Halpern, Robbins Office. (July)
Reviewed on: 03/30/2015
Release date: 07/28/2015
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4767-5627-1
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-4767-5626-4
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