Review - Reflections from Gavea

Review by Tyler Tichelaar of Marquette Fiction - March 8, 2013:

When I finished reading Reflections from Gavea, all I could think was “WOW! WOW! WOW! What a book!” Encompassed within the story of Marianne Campagna’s personal story of her separation from her father and brother and her reconnection with them is most of the history of the twentieth century and four continents—Europe, Asia, North America, and South America. I have never read a book like this memoir, and the most amazing part is that this epic story is all true.

The story begins when Marianne Campagna’s Chinese father is a student in Germany during the 1930s. As Hitler rises to power, her father falls in love with her mother, and because interracial marriages are forbidden under the Nazi regime, they must flee the country as World War II breaks out. After many months moving around the Mediterranean and searching for a new land to call home, they arrive in China. There Marianne and her brother are born before her parents get a divorce. Marianne’s father receives custody of her brother while she is given into her mother’s custody.

War seems to have marked Marianne’s family, for not long after, the Chinese Revolution takes place. Desperate to leave China, Marianne’s mother marries a Russian prince who resides in China after having been ousted from Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. With her new stepfather and mother, Marianne, still a young child unable fully to understand the events around her, embarks on a ship to Brazil and a new life, leaving behind her father and brother.

Marianne grows up in Gavea, the area surrounding Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. Her childhood varies from dramatic to colorful moments, but deep in her heart is always the sadness of her separation from her father and brother. Not until she journeys to the United States as a young woman and the United States establishes diplomatic relations with Communist China does Marianne have any hope of locating her lost family. What develops next I’ll leave for the reader to discover.

At times, Reflections from Gavea is a tearjerker; at other times, it is a quiet thoughtful book of longing and loneliness. It is also a vivid historical pageant of the twentieth century. But most importantly, it is the story of one woman determined to find her own identity, her home, and her family amid war, turmoil, and decades of worldwide change. Marianne takes the reader from the Russian Revolution to World War II and from the Chinese Revolution to Brazil’s inflation crisis and finally to a parasailing adventure above Gavea. Numerous personal photos of the people and places mentioned in the book make Marianne’s story spring to life as if the reader is experiencing for himself.

I have not been so moved by a book in years. I have never before had an armchair traveler experience like this one. In reading this book, my faith that there is good in the world was reconfirmed. Despite all the heartache, Marianne is proof that we can come out on top and that the world is full of adventures and possibilities to treasure. If you only read one book this year, it has to be Reflections from Gavea. You might find it stirring up long-forgotten longings within you. I guarantee you will never forget it.

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., author of the award-winning Narrow Lives

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Review - Brazil in Crisis

Review by Tyler Tichelaar of Marquette Fiction - July 10, 2020:

Anyone who pays attention to global issues knows that Brazil, the world’s largest country physically, and by population eighth largest, has been in a financial crisis for several years. Most Americans, however, do not understand what is at the heart of that crisis, or how recent developments, including the 2018 election of Jair Bolsonaro, have affected it.

In writing Brazil in Crisis: The Joy and Pathos of a Nation, Marianne Campagna set out to explore what has resulted in Brazil’s current crisis. Today, Campagna is a citizen of the United States, but she spent her formative years growing up in Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s. Not a Brazilian herself, she was born in China to a Chinese father and German mother and immigrated to Brazil as a child. She then immigrated to the United States as a young woman. However, for Campagna, Brazil will always be home. Growing up near Rio de Janeiro, she grew to love the customs, culture, and people of Brazil, and her heart has bled to see the increase in crime and corruption in this land that is also so full of joy, laughter, and rich cultural traditions.

Campagna’s primary focus in this book is to explain the 2018 presidential election in Brazil for readers outside the country so they can understand Brazil’s political process and all the factors that came into play to elect Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president. To fully understand the election, Campagna argues that you must understand Brazil, and so she takes readers on a cultural journey through Brazil, its past and present.

As an American today, Campagna also explores how Brazil is similar and yet different from the United States. Jair Bolsonaro has been named the “Trump of the Tropics” because he admires Donald Trump and in many ways has similar policies. At the same time, the United States is a country that believes in rugged individualism while Brazil is a more collective society. Quoting Mother Teresa, Campagna talks about the loneliness in America where people often do not even know their neighbors, whereas in Brazil there is a true sense of community. The two countries also share a history of having been European colonies and having a legacy of slavery that continues to affect them. These and other comparisons help American readers understand the Brazilian experience better and judge for themselves the merits and shortcomings of this remarkable nation.

Campagna begins her discussion by documenting the burning of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro in September 2018, just before the national elections. This tragedy resulted in many wonderful artifacts being lost. From there, Campagna launches into a discussion of numerous topics, devoting separate chapters to Brazilian Society, Brazilian Culture, Brazilian History, the Favelas (slums), Corruption, Crime, Fiscal Reality, and finally, the 2018 Presidential Election, and a look at Brazil’s future.

After reading Brazil in Crisis, I found myself eager to learn more about Brazil. I mourned for the poverty of the people who live in the slums, while I admired their ingenuity and ability to live without many of the things we take for granted in the United States. I could hear the Brazilian music and taste the Brazilian food and enjoyed traveling through the streets of Rio as well as through the Amazon. At the same time, I was grateful not to have lived under a military dictatorship or to experience crime and government corruption to the degree it exists in Brazil.

The description of Brazil’s political system was especially interesting. Campagna explains that while Brazil is technically a democracy, it is incomplete as such. Many detrimental forces plague the government and its political system, including corruption at the highest levels. In addition, it has forty-plus parties, so understandably, with each party wanting to pull the country in a different direction, it is difficult to have a consensus on what is best for the country. During elections, if no candidate receives the majority vote, the two parties with the most votes then run against each other in a second election to determine who will be elected. In this scenario, it is possible that a party that had less than 5 percent of the vote initially could be elected to power.

At the same time, Campagna is quick to point out the social class divide in Brazil. There is the upper class and then there is everyone else, who make up the true Brazilian people. These people are warm and friendly and proud of their cultural heritage. Campagna, like most Brazilians she meets who have emigrated elsewhere, misses most the people of Brazil, which is why she continually journeys back to the land of her childhood.

I could say much more about the beauty, magic, and sadness that mark Brazil, but it is best you read about it in Brazil in Crisis. Then take a trip there to experience Brazil for yourself. After reading this book, I think you will be eager to go, and you will realize in the end that we are all citizens of the world and the more we understand about each other, the more we will realize we have more in common with our Latin neighbors than we might think.

To buy Brazil in Crisis: The Joy and Pathos of a Nation and Marianne Campagna, visit Amazon.

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, PhD and award-winning author of The Gothic Wanderer and When Teddy Came to Town

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Contact Us

Copyright 2013 by Marianne Campagna
Gavea Press
Ypsilanti, Michigan 48198