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A Decrease font size. A Reset font size. A Increase font size. Translation Edmund Ruge. R eflecting on the written memory of Minas de Gerais author Carolina Maria de Jesus requires care and effort.
Carolina Maria de Jesus was born in Sacramento, a small city in the south of Minas Gerais, to a black family of the last enslaved generation of Africans and Afro-descendants brought against their will or born in Brazil. Carolina Maria de Jesus would have had only to follow the path laid out for her by the Casa Grande [ 2] and by powerful landowners, remnants of the bandeirante  period and the bossism created by violence and rampant rural coronelismo.
This enslaved ancestrality and the forced destiny of subservience, on the contrary, gave de Jesus courage and drive, beginning in the two years she spent frequenting a Spiritist high school. Determination and dreams beyond measure pushed the little black girl to exceed all imaginable, to do the unthinkable and the impossible — and in her persistence in learning to read, even as a little girl, she was deemed crazy. At a tender age, she was arrested and thrown in jail. Carolina Maria de Jesus had her life journey associated with the question of social disorder because she did not accept for herself a life path directed by others.
Her life as a manual laborer, from babysitter to domestic servant, from cook to factory worker, turned her into a pilgrim, taking long journeys by foot from city to city in search of bread and dignity. In the big city, however, she found unanticipated pain and glory. But de Jesus pushed her way in, doused in courage and daring, masterfully rewriting her own DNA. Quarto de despejo , her debut book, triggered a new schism in Brazilian intellectual life — one not felt since romanticism, one that would shake literature strong enough to cause a break with colonialism.
Her literature brought the gift of revolt and of revolution. The aesthetic was, from a conceptual standpoint, that of the canon being broken, akin to a useless bookbinding.
Carolina de Jesus — not only with Quarto do despejo , but in her other works, even those yet unpublished — shook the ivory tower, that spearhead between the old and the new modernizing but outdated on account of its conservatism in our literature.
With her writing she imposed a new code of literary conduct: it is the woman of the people that writes, literarily, fable-ly, poetically, the anguish of the people. Internationally, she would break all possible and imaginable barriers. At the junction of these two standards, de Jesus became the new canon.
Elitist rhetoric stood and stands in opposition to this new reality. Racially aggressive, her narrative is harrowing, discursive, modern at the same time that remains in touch with reality and lives within the changing anxieties of Brazilian national consciousness. Her legacy and increasing presence today testify to the force of nature in her written thought, which remains current and contemporary, subversive and revolutionary, rebranded as alternative, marginal, peripheral.
Born years ago, de Jesus left with us much more than unpublished works, dreams, and resilience. Revisiting her work has become more and more urgent.
Reading her is, to put it crudely, absolutely imperative. She is still muzzled by the threat of Speaking of and reading de Jesus has become something dangerous, risky, threatening. Treating her as the author, thinker, and intellectual that she is has become a condemnation, an affront to the caste of the academic ivory tower of literature and learning. This is a long and stony road. This is work that remains to be done — done with the same pain and suffering endured by the black current author Carolina Maria de Jesus.
Carolina Maria de Jesus
She is best known for her diary , which was first published as Quarto de Despejo Dumping Room , published in English as Child of the Dark in August , after coming to the attention of a Brazilian journalist, and became a bestseller. This work remains the only document published in English by a Brazilian slum-dweller from that period. Carolina Maria de Jesus was born in Minas Gerais , a rural community where her parents were sharecroppers. She was an illegitimate child , fathered by a man who was already married, so she was treated as an outcast during her entire childhood. When Carolina reached the age of seven, her mother forced her to attend school after a wealthy landowner's wife paid for her, as well as other poor black children in the neighborhood. She stopped attending school by the second grade, though she went long enough to learn how to read and write. Since her mother had two illegitimate children, her family was excluded from the Catholic Church while she was still young.