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A smart and stylish account of the bigotry lurking
Federico and Louren o are brothers. Their father is black, a famed
forensic pathologist for the police; their mother is white. Federico--distant,
angry, analytical--has light skin, which means he's always been able to avoid
the worst of the racism Brazilian culture has to offer. He can "pass" as white,
and yet, because of this, he has devoted his life to racial justice. Louren o,
on the other hand, is dark-skinned, easygoing, and well-liked in the brothers'
hometown of Porto Alegre--and has become a father himself.
As Federico's fiftieth birthday looms, he joins a ludicrous yet
chilling governmental committee in the capital. It is tasked with quelling the
increasingly violent student protests rocking Brazil by overseeing the design
of new piece of software that will remove the question of race from the hands
of fallible, human, prejudiced college administrators by adjudicating who does
and doesn't warrant admittance as a non-white applicant under new
affirmative-action quotas. Before he can come to grips with his feelings about
this initiative, not to mention a budding romance with one of his committee
colleagues, Federico is called home: his niece has just been arrested at a
protest carrying a concealed gun. And not just any gun. A stolen police service
revolver that he and Louren o hid for a
friend decades before. A gun used in a killing.
Paulo Scott here probes the old wounds of race in Brazil, and in
particular the loss of a black identity independent from the history of slavery.
Exploratory rather than didactic, a story of crime, street-life and regret as
much as a satirical novel of ideas, Phenotypes is a seething masterpiece
of rage and reconciliation.