On this day in 1822, Brazil became an independent nation, and ever since then, it has dazzled people. Or, it’s dazzled me, at least. If you don’t speak Portuguese, it can be hard to find fiction from Brazil, especially for kids and young adults. Of course, teens may be interested in some Brazilian authors who write for adults, like Paolo Coelho or Jorge Amado, but there isn’t a lot of original YA coming out and being translated into English. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t English-language titles that might inspire more interest or passion in the country, its history, or its culture. If it’s one of your favorite countries as well, or if you’re looking to make it so, here are some ways to get to know it a bit better.
Obviously, we have to start with the Amazon. And to combine it with the fact that Brazil is one of the growing number of nations with a female head of state (no English biographies available as of yet), we’ll go with a biography of a female rain forest activist. Marina Silva, an acolyte of activist Chico Mendes, grew up in the Amazon, went to college, and returned home to fight for nature. The biography Marina Silva: Defending Rainforest Communities in Brazil by Ziporah Hildebrandt might inspire teens in their own activist endeavors.
You can’t talk about Brazil for long without getting to PelÃ©. While there are plenty of library-bound series with editions about this superstar, you may as well go with the story in his own words. Published in 1977, My Life and the Beautiful Game will still grab people. And for those who’d rather read something more, hand them a newer biography on athletes like Ronaldo or Ronaldinho, both of whose stories have been published in the recent series Superstars of Soccer, published by Mason Crest.
Middle school-aged teens should try some of popular Brazilian author (and Hans Christian Andersen Medal winner) Ana MarÃa Machado’s novels, like From Another World, in which a home renovation is the catalyst for a nineteenth-century ghost appearance. This inspires Mariano to learn about Brazil’s history of slavery and to write down the slave girl’s story for others to learn.
Last but not least, one of my favorite books to come out this year: Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince. Based in a fictional future city near present-day Bahia, the story follows artist June and the beautiful and doomed Enki, the Summer King. The novel has a lot to offer fans of varied genres, from sci fi nerds to dystopian diehards to lovers of sex, parties, and romance. And it’s dripping in references to Brazilian musicians and artists.
Happy Birthday, Brazil! And to you: any titles I’m missing?
— Hannah GÃ³mez, currently reading The Many Lives of Miss K: Toto Koopman – Model, Muse, Spy by Jean-Noel Liaut