One woman's story of life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro
Testimonies of a Brazilian Drug Dealer's Woman
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Favelas, or shantytowns, are where cocaine is mainly sold in Rio de Janeiro. There are some six hundred favelas in the city, and most of them are controlled by well-organized and heavily armed drug gangs. The struggle for the massive profits from this drug trade has resulted in what are increasingly violent and deadly confrontations between rival drug gangs and a corrupt and brutal police force, that have transformed parts of the city into a war-zone. Lucia tells the story of one woman who was once intimately involved with drug gang life in Rio throughout the 1990s. Through a series of conversations with the author, Lucia describes conditions of poverty, violence, and injustice that are simply unimaginable to outsiders. In doing so, she explains why women like her become involved with drugs and gangs, and why this situation is unlikely to change.
"Lucia is an outstanding book. Robert Gay does a splendid job of laying out and expanding the lives of Lucia and of those who intersect with her. He makes them live by explaining social organizations and institutionsgangs, prison, school, work, economy and religionwithin the context of people's lives. Gay offers a rich, superbly readable narrative that develops these important themes. Lucia provides depth and breadth to a subject about which there is little empirical research; it teaches sociology in an interesting and informed way."
"If you can no longer recall the stomach-churning depictions of Rio de Janeiro favelas from the 2002 film City of God, this true account of one mujer's life in the Brazilian underworldtrying to survive local gangs and merciless rule of her drug-lord boyfriendwill bring it all back."
"These transcripts reveal much about the structure and complexities of life in one of Rio de Janeiro's favelas or shantytowns. The testimonies of Lucia provide a unique glimpse into the social organization and institutions that provide the context within which inhabitants of these surroundings negotiate survival."
"The mass of the book is a fascinating exchange between the author and his subject as he tries to learn from her and tell her story.... Gay has achieved an extraordinary result by providing profound insights into a particular type of life usually overlooked in academic writing. As a result he provides a very personal and real account of how the violence and poverty facing Rio de Janeiro affect the lives of the often voiceless people who have to live with its most brutal results. Gay has, indeed, achieved a different sort of social science."
"Gay's Lucia offers a riveting portrait of the way these contending forces [gangs, drugs, the church] have shaped the life of one favela resident."
"It is a provocative account of Lucia, a young inhabitant of one of Rio de Janeiro's dozens of favelas (shantytowns), and her ill-fated quest to defy the notion of destiny. Among other things, the book serves as an exemplary ethnography. ...I recommend this book as a sociological primer in ethnographic research; as a grassroots analysis of Latin America's social, political, and economic structure; and as a fascinating example of literary nonfiction."
"[Gay’s] condemnation of political and economic forces linked to the state is vociferous...The silences in Gay’s book...are weighty and meaningful ones for those who would read between the lines. Lucia is a brave [experiment]."
"The book largely consists of transcripts of recorded interviews Gay conducted with Lucia between 1999 and 2001. Gay has selected and structured the transcripts of Lucia’s narrated autobiography in such a way that one is quickly caught by the dreadful thought vivid story and likely to gain the necessary insight to understand what Lucia’s reflections entail....To conclude, this is a fascinating book that should be read by everyone who wants to learn more about life in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro."
"[An] often heart-rending look into the life of one woman caught up in drug dealing, violence, police corruption and urban crime in Rio de Janeiro.... Gay's book combines a compelling first-person narrative with a balanced and accessibly written contextual analysis of the causes and effects of inequalities, urban violence and drug trafficking.... [T]he book's greatest strength [is] it offers a window into the particularities of one woman's life, a life like many others all too often dismissed or ignored."
"The chapters are well-constructed, with telling interviews followed by two to four pages of sociological analysis of the dialogues' themes that place Lucia's experiences in larger context.... This book offers a rich portrait...not by presenting a theoretical treatise from an abstract perspective, but by providing a poignant portrait of how these inequalities are experienced by Lucia 'on the ground."
"Lucia can almost be read as a novel, in which the reader anxiously wants to know the outcome of Lucia’s trajectory and shares the author’s declared hope that she manages to change her life. As a result, it is inevitable that the reader ends by partaking in the melancholy expressed by Gay as the book reaches its conclusion."
In the series
Voices of Latin American Life, edited by Arthur Schmidt.
Voices of Latin American Life, edited by Arthur Schmidt, aims to bring the texture and humanity of Latin American experiences to English-language readers through translations of works that impart direct voices. Through testimonial literature, interviews, and essays, the series will present important Latin American views from the famous and the anonymous that reflect the immense challenges of fundamental issues and of daily life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.