12 Brazilian Women Authors To Make Room For On Your Bookshelf

Hailing from the largest country in South America, these women writers speak to the rich and complicated history of Brazil.

From the iconic pioneers who wrote when doing so was taboo to the contemporary activists who continue to use their words to fight oppression, the following women exemplify individuality and strength of spirit.

1. Clarice Lispector

Clarice, eu te amo. #ClariceLispector #PodeRosa

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Born to a Jewish family in Podolia in Western Ukraine, Clarice Lispector moved to Brazil as an infant with her family after World War I and went on to write 85 stories in her lifetime. She began writing at a young age and shot to fame at the age of 23 with the publication of her first novel, “Near to the Wild Heart” (“Perto do Coração Selvagem”), written as an interior monologue in a style and language that was considered revolutionary in Brazil. She left the South American country in 1944 and returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1959, when she began producing her most famous works, including the stories of “Family Ties” (“Laços de Família”), the great mystic novel “The Passion According to G.H.” (“A Paixão Segundo G.H.”) and what is arguably her masterpiece, “Água Viva.” Lispector achieved international fame with works that depict a highly personal, almost existentialist view and are written in a prose style characterized by simple language. She is notoriously difficult to translate due to the complexity of the more fantastical elements of her stories.

2. Carolina Maria de Jesus

Arguably the most famous favela author, Carolina Maria de Jesus lived in São Paulo and is best known for her published diary, “Quarto de Despejo,” which came out in 1960. The book focused on the conditions in the slums and the inability of dwellers to move up in society because of the depth of poverty and debt. It was published in the United States and the United Kingdom as “Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus” in 1962. This work remains the only document published in English by a Brazilian from the favelas and became the most successful book in Brazilian publishing history. Originally written in the accessible language of a favelada, her diary was translated into 13 tongues and became a bestseller in North America and Europe.

3. Hilda Hilst

One of the nation’s most celebrated authors, Hilda Hilst is also one of the most controversial, with works on themes like eroticiscm and sexual liberation. She published her first book,  “Presságio” (“Omen”), at the age of 20 to great acclaim and went on to successfully  publish for 50 years. She began to retreat to her home “Casa do Sol” (House of the Sun) in Campinas, turning it into an artistic haven where she produced some of her most original works, including  “With My Dog-Eyes” (Com meus olhos de cão). Originally published in 1986, the book recounts the final days of Amós Kéres, a professor of mathematics who begins a descent into madness, and it became her first full-length book  to be translated to English. Following her death in 2004, Hilst’s friend Mora Fuentes created the Hilda Hilst Institute to uphold Casa do Sol as a space for artistic creation also functioning as a library and cultural center.

4. Jenyffer Nascimento

Tá rolando? #aprendendoatirarselfie

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Black feminist writer and activist Jenyffer Nascimento writes as a form of resistance. Her book of poetry “Terra Fértil” came out in 2014, and it challenged standards imposed on love and society while focusing on her own sense of pride of her roots. Born in Pernambuco in 1984, she was introduced to poetry by way of hip-hop and now uses her own words in an attempt to dismantle racism and maschismo. Her book was published as part of the Mjiba Project’s Spreading Seeds, which aims at strengthening Black and female writing.

5. Mel Duarte

Vesti o vento e fui dançar no seu quintal… 🍃✨🌪⚡️ Foto: @murielxavierr

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The São Paulo poet Mel Duarte, 29,  won the World Poetry Championship in Rio in 2016, becoming the first woman to win the international competition, which is the first of its kind in South America. She published her first book “Fragmentos Dispersos” (Dispersed fragments) in 2013, and last year she released  her second book, “Negra Nua Crua” (Black, Nude, Crude).  “Living inspires me. My experiences, my mistakes and successes. Learning to observe, to shut up and to speak at the right time, all this is experience and raw material to inspire. There is no single thing, that would be limiting something that is infinite,” she told Clarices and Marias.

6. Ana Maria Machado

Considerada pela crítica como uma das mais versáteis e completas das escritoras brasileiras contemporâneas, a carioca Ana Maria Machado ocupa a cadeira numero 1 da Academia Brasileira de Letras, que presidiu de 2011 a 2013. Na sua carreira, os números são generosos. São mais de 40 anos escrevendo, mais de cem livros publicados (dos quais 9 romances e 8 de ensaios), mais de vinte milhões de exemplares vendidos, publicados em vinte idiomas e 26 países. Estudou no Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro e no MOMA de Nova York, tendo participado de salões e exposições individuais e coletivas no país e no exterior. Deu aulas na Faculdade de Letras na UFRJ (Literatura Brasileira e Teoria Literária) e na Escola de Comunicação da UFRJ, bem como na PUC-Rio (Literatura Brasileira), também lecionou em Paris, na Sorbonne (Língua Portuguesa), na Universidade de Berkeley, Califórnia e ocupou a cátedra Machado de Assis em Oxford. No final de 1969, depois de ser presa pelo governo militar e ter diversos amigos também detidos, deixou o Brasil e partiu para o exílio. A volta veio no final de 1972, quando começou a trabalhar no Jornal do Brasil e na Radio Jornal do Brasil. Na presidência da Academia Brasileira de Letras deu especial ênfase a programas sociais de expansão do acesso ao livro e à leitura nas periferias e comunidades carentes. Nosso encontro de maio discutirá a obra A audácia dessa mulher, de Ana Maria Machado, no sábado (26), às 18h, no @tinindotrincandobar . @_leiamulheres #leiamulheres #LeiaMulheresThe #literaturanacional #clubedeleitura #anamariamachado #aaudaciadessamulher

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Ana Maria Machado is a famed children’s book author who was awarded the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2000.  Born in Rio de Janeiro, she began her career as a painter and later as a journalist, working for Elle magazine (Paris), the BBC (London) and as a news editor for Radio Jornal do Brasil for seven years. She began writing in 1969 and has now published 96 books for children. In 1979, she opened the first children’s bookstore in all of Brazil called Malasartes. She’s developed a reputation for her use of magical realism focusing on a mix of fantasy and social satire. “Bisa Bia, Bisa Bel,” published in 1982, is one of her central works and focuses on Isabell’s internal dialogue with her dead great-grandmother, Bisa Bia, and her own great-grandchild from the future, Bisa Bel.

7. Cecília Benevides de Carvalho Meireles

Born in 1901 in Rio de Janeiro, Cecília Benevides de Carvalho Meireles published her first book at the age of 18 and revolutionized literature in Brazil.  “Espectros” included 17 sonnets mainly centered on historical and mythological themes and characters including Samson and Delilah, Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette. Miereles is thought to have paid for the publication herself, and with such few copies, it was lost in circulation until 2001, when it was included in a book of her collection of poetry. In 1924, she published “Child, My Love,” her first children’s book focusing on good advice, humor and fantasy. In total, she published 50 works and is known as a pioneer among literature written by women in Brazil.

8. Júlia Valentina de Silveira Lopes de Almeida

155 anos do nascimento de Júlia Lopes de Almeida: uma talentosa escritora brasileira! "Por isto: o que não quero é escrever meramente; não penso em deliciar o leitor escorrendo-lhe n’alma o mel do sentimento, nem em dar-lhe comoções de espanto e de imprevisto. Pouco me importo de florir a frase, fazê-la cantante ou rude, recortá-la a buril ou golpeá-la a machado; o que quero é achar um engaste novo onde encrave as minhas idéias, seguras e claras como diamantes: o que quero é criar todo meu livro, pensamento e forma, fazê-lo fora desta arte de escrever já tão banalizada, onde me embaraço com raiva de não saber nada de melhor. (…) Quero escrever um livro novo, arrancado do meu sangue e do meu sonho, vivo, palpitante, com todos os retalhos de céu e de inferno que sinto dentro de mim; livro rebelde sem adulações, digno de um homem." – Júlia Lopes de Almeida, em 'Ânsia eterna'. Rio de Janeiro: H. Garnier, 1903, p. 1-2. http://www.elfikurten.com.br/2014/05/julia-lopes-de-almeida.html #LiteraturaNacional #julialopesdealmeida #júlialopesdealmeida

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Júlia Valentina de Silveira Lopes de Almeida launched her writing career in 1886 and became one of Brazil’s first female writers to gain social acceptance. She was an early advocate for women’s rights and modernizing women’s roles in society, leading by example by becoming one of the founders of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Her works are extensive, including novels, plays and chronicles, and she was a pioneer in children’s literature in Brazil. Her first book, “Contos Infantis,” contained verse and prose written along with her sister, Adelina Lopes Vieira. In 1887, she published “Traços e Iluminuras,” the first of her 10 novels. She also regularly contributed to local newspapers on important topics of that time, including the Republic, abolition and civil rights.

9. Maria Firmina dos Reis

Regrann from @umlivroumpoema – AH! NÃO POSSO Se uma frase se pudesse Do meu peito destacar; Uma frase misteriosa Como o gemido do mar, Em noite erma, e saudosa, De meigo, e doce luar. Ah! se pudesse!… mas muda Sou, por lei, que me impõe Deus! Essa frase maga encerra, Resume os afetos meus; Exprime o gozo dos anjos, Extremos puros dos céus. Entretanto, ela é meu sonho, Meu ideal inda é ela; Menos a vida eu amara Embora fosse ela bela. Como rubro diamante, Sob finíssima tela. Se dizê-la é meu empenho, Reprimi-la é meu dever: Se se escapar dos meus lábios, Oh! Deus, – fazei-me morrer! Que eu pronunciando-a não posso Mais sobre a terra viver. (Maria Firmina dos Reis, em seu livro "Cantos à Beira Mar", São Luís do Maranhão, 1871) #SextadaPoesia #Bacabeira #BibliotecaMariaFirminadosReis #IEMABacabeira #IEMA #SomosIema #MariaFirminadosReis #Maranhão #Poeta #Poema #Poesia #Poetadodia #Poesiadodia #Poemadodia #Leiamulheres #Autoriafeminina #Literatura #Literaturabrasileira #Poesiabrasileira #Leiapoesia #Poetabrasileira – #regrann

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Born in 1825, Maria Firmina dos Reis was a teacher and an abolitionist known as the first poet from Maranhão and the first Brazilian novelist. Her groundbreaking 1859 novel “Úrsula” humanized enslaved Africans in Brazil and became the first anti-slavery book. In 1861, she published “Gupeva,” an Indian-themed book, and in 1871 she wrote the book of poems “Cantos A Beira Mar.” The author would return to the subject of denunciation of slavery in 1887 with the short story “The Slave,” published at the height of the abolitionist movement. At the age of 55, she founded the first free mixed state school in the village of Maçaricó for poor children and returned to teaching. The institution was considered so controversial at the time that it had to be closed.

10. Luisa Geisler

Luisa Geisler was born in Canoas, State of Rio Grande do Sul, in 1991, and at the age of 19 she was awarded the 2010 Prêmio Sesc de Literatura (Sesc Prize for Literature) for her debut book. The short story collection, “Contos de Mentira” (“Tales of Lies”), is about the little lies that make everyone human. She followed it with “Quiçá” in 2012, which is about family and friendship, and that same year she was chosen to be a part of the literary magazine Granta’s short story collection for the Best Young Brazilian Writers. Geisler was the youngest writer to be selected for the collection.

11. Adriana Lisboa

The 48-year-old multi-award-winning writer Adriana Lisboa is one of Brazil’s leading authors. She has written six novels, including her latest “Crow Blue” that published in 2014 and is about a young woman from Brazil who travels to Colorado in search of  her biological father. She received the Newcomer of the Year Award from the Brazilian section of International Board on Books for Young People for her children’s poetry book “Língua de trapos” (“A Tongue Made of Scraps”) and the José Saramago Prize of Literature for “Symphony in White.” Lisboa has a MA in Brazilian Literature and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Rio de Janeiro State University. She currently resides in Austin, Texas.

12. Patrícia Rehder Galvão

Famously known by her pseudonym Pagu, Patrícia Rehder Galvão was a multi-talented writer, playwright, journalist and translator born to a family of German descent in São Paulo in 1910.  She was a Communist militant who was arrested in 1931 for participating in a harbor worker’s strike, becoming the first woman in Brazil to be arrested for political reasons. She went on to publish the novel “Parque Industrial” in 1933 under the pseudonym Mara Lobo, and it’s considered the first Brazilian proletarian novel. She died at age 52 from cancer.

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