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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars

on 1 October 2010
Mr. Rohter enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame after President Lula illegal and clumsy attempt to expel him from Brazil for reporting in the New York Times about Lula's abuse with alcohol. So I ran to the library to get Deu no New York Times (O Brasil segundo a otica de um reporter do jornal mais influente do mundo), published in Brazil (no English edition available). I liked the book so much, and after so many recent headlines (just check the latest issues of The Economist) about Brazil successful agribusiness model and how it has achieved sustainable energy independence (sugarcane ethanol makes up 50% of the gasoline market + the recent discovery of huge off shore deposits of gas and oil), I also rushed to buy this book.

Chapter 1, Brazil's history in a nutshell, and chapters 6 through 10 are a must read for anyone interested in understanding the Brazilian economic miracle. Five stars! Unfortunately, chapters 2 and 3, which by the way are completely out of context for a book dealing with "Brazil on the Rise", present a biased view of Brazil, with unfair generalizations and passing judgment based on his moral and religious view of the world. And chapter 2 in particular is written through the lenses of his apparent tight Protestant beliefs (showing the good old and out of fashion Catholic vs. Protestant owner of the truth debate) as he unnecessarily passes moral judgment on Brazilian sexuality and sexual preferences as viewed by him and supported just by anecdotes. The comparison Mr. Rohter makes in Chapter 4 about Brazilian soccer players treatment of the ball as if it was a woman in just delirious, I just could not stop laughing at such ridiculous metaphor (by the way, if you watch soccer games you should have known that European players and from a lot of nationalities too often kiss the ball too after scoring, including Americans). Those chapters only deserve one star hence resulting in my three star rating. Chapter 5 deals with Brazilian music and arts in general, and despite being excellent, Mr. Rohter really shows up his mastery of this subject, it is out of context for a book on economic development. Brazil on the Rise is actually two separate books published as one.

As Mr. Rohter, I am a gringo (foreigner) who has worked all over Brazil for the last ten years and actually lived over there for four years, and like him, also married a Brazilian, so I do not have the bias of a nationalistic view of Brazil, nor I am not offended by some of Mr. Rohter's moral outbursts and undeserved criticism (as rightly most Brazilians will). The book demonstrates he really knows Brazilian culture (a couple of blunders apart), but in those hapless chapters he not also shows his moral and religious bias but also displays the typical carioca (inhabitant of Rio de Janeiro) shortsighted view of the rest of Brazil, which is much more than Rio, Bahia and Brasilia (i.e. the chapter covering beach and carnival refers almost exclusively to Rio de Janeiro). Not a word in the book about the cultural features of Curitiba, or the states of Sao Paulo, Parana and Santa Catarina, nor anything about the south in general, which together with Sao Paulo are quite a model for other Latin American countries, and also has a different culture and idiosyncrasy not found anywhere in the book. Surely you have been in Brasilia, but did you ever go to outside the Plano Piloto (o entorno - cities in Brasilia's periphery)? The existing country's inequality is a sad fact, but it is mainly related to poverty, lack of opportunities for a decent education, no matter the color of your skin. Also, some of the idiosyncratic features he harshly criticized are shared by most Latin American countries (Roman Catholic heritage). I wonder if Mr. Rohter have ever spent enough time in any of those other countries so that he can tell the differences and similarities?

So, shame on him, a New York Times journalist should know better. Bringing back old fashion religious prejudices and comparing racism in the U.S with Brazil is not what you expect from someone with his experience and cultural baggage. Those unfair chapters based on your personal biases just serve to reinforce the good old stereotypes about American gringos in Latin America. He should have stayed on the book's main subject or instead write two separate books. Nevertheless, I believe Mr. Rohter did an excellent job in chapters 6 through 10 and delivered what he promised in the book's title, how Brazil was able to achieve such progress in agribusiness, sustainable energy and energy independence (chapters 6 and 7), its controversial stewardship of the Amazon (chapter 8), and how "the country of the future" finally seems to be getting there (chapter 9 and 10).

For broader analysis of the Brazilian economy and its political background (that Mr Rohter deals in just two chapters) I do recommend The New Brazil, also published in 2010. Its style is more academic like, but readable for the general public and without cultural biases or moral judgement, just stays in the policies and the economics, and its historic evolution. Nevertheless, Rohter's short explanation behind Brazil's spectacular take off is much more detailed, while "The New Brazil" just looks at it from the macroeconomic point of view.
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on 3 September 2017
I had expected more from this this book by Rohter who spent 14 years in Brazil as correspondent for the New York Times and Newsweek. He is married to a Brazilian, speaks Portuguese and obviously has an insider's view of life here. He gives an overview of Brazilian history, explains some of the many peculiar features of life in this continental-sized country and tries to convey how Brazilians see things but he remains an American at heart and virtually everything is seen from the American point of view. He also sees Brazil from Rio de Janeiro which gives a distorted view of practically everything. São Paulo may not be as attractive but it is the place where things happen. As for Brasilia, it it might as well be in Mars as it has no relevance to the rest of the country.

He devotes a lot of space to race (too much in my view) and finds it difficult to understand how Brazilians do not take the simplistic view of Americans who regard the slightest drop of African blood in you ancestry as meaning you are black. He does not seem to understand why Brazilians saw Barack Obama as a mulatto and not black. Color is a more sensitive issue than Rohter seems to imagine and Brazilians do not like being labelled black by foreigners. For example, footballer Ronaldo reacted unfavorable to descriptions of him as being black and said he was white. Another footballer Neymar is routinely referred to as black by European journalist yet no-one in Brazil regards him as black.

Rohter seems blinkered when it comes to this issue. For example, he singles out actress Tais Araujo as one of the few examples of a successful black woman. Yet any look at her and her parents shows that none of them is remotely black in the way someone like Mike Tyson is. (Despite this, Araujo has made a point of supporting “black” causes even though she is a mulatta.)

Rohter trots out the usual horror stories of police violence, the destruction of the Amazon, grinding poverty, Carnival etc. – the usual clichés foreigners expect. Having said that, he does push a more optimistic agenda, pointing out how Brazil has made great advances in recent years. Alas, things have started going disastrously wrong since the book was published in 2012 and we are now back in the depths of a recession and political crisis. The country of the future that has will take a long time to arrive.

Worth a read if you are planning a trip but Joseph Page's “The Brazilians” published in 1995 is much better.
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on 26 February 2015
'Brazil on the Rise' was the first book I bought when I decided to research this country for my university dissertation topic. The book is a brilliant introduction to the subject of Brazil, giving the reader an overview of many important aspects of Brazilian life and politics, these aspects include racial harmony/tensions, the economy, industry and social order. Rohter's writing style is brilliantly accessible, probably stemming from his career as a journalist and I can guarantee that you will fire through this book quickly.

However I hasten to give this book five stars. The book's weakness is that it does only provide an overview, an introduction if you will. Now if you are just looking to broaden your understanding of this diverse and complex country to the level of informed pub lecturer, this is fine, but if you are looking for stronger academic reasoning, you must buy this book and then suppliment it with works like 'Brazil: Reversal of Fortune' by Montero, or 'The New Brazil' by Roett. As I said, 'Brazil on the Rise' is a good place to start, but that is it.

What he does reveal very effectively is that Brazil was and still is a 'basketcase' country. Before I read this, I was one of the misled flock who saw Brazil as a country leading the charge for developing nations, a racial heaven where sun, sea and samba dictated an easy, exotic life. Now of course Brazil is going places, it has gotten so far in the last 20 years, but she is the proverbial swan, graceful on top, but treading water like mad. Rohter informs the reader that while Brazil is developing positively, there is still a long, long way to go in regards to economic stability, racial and social stability, poverty and so much more.

This is perhaps the books biggest gift, it helps to pull off the cloak of misperception about Brazil and deepen understand about this important, beautiful country. If you want to learn a little more about this country, but not throw yourself into the droves of academic material, this is your book. It is highly readable and worth it 100%.
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on 18 August 2014
Excellent book. I don't agree with everything Larry says, just because he lived many years in Brazil desn't make him an exeprt in understanding the Brazilian Culture completely. Brazil is a large country and some comments wouldn't apply to certain parts of Brazil. However, it's a very informative book, interesting to read if you are interested in Brazilian business and culture, but remember it's a point of view of an American. I recommend this book to my students willing to travel or work in Brazil.
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on 10 December 2013
I followed the advice of reviewer Emc2.

Chapter 1, and chapters 6 through 10 are a must read for anyone interested in understanding the Brazilian economic miracle and it's where we see Larry Rohter's journalistic prowess.

As for the rest he fell into the expat error of continuing to look through anglo-saxon eyes and passing moral and religous judgements based on subjective opinions without objectivity.

Despite this you can really feel his love and passion for Brazil.
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on 28 August 2013
For anyone interested in the complex and amazing country of Brazil this will be enthralling. I've always been interested in Brazil largely because of the football - but I couldn't put this down. It covers all aspects of the culture, history, politics, society - but never dull or stuffy, hugely entertaining, interesting and extremely well-researched.
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on 30 March 2013
Best introduction to Brazil. Even my Brazilian friends read it! And recommended it!
I need to fill up to 20 words?????
It is odd that an American can still write best about Brazil.
Now I am there.
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on 26 October 2015
the best
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