Child of the Dark


To really understand the life of Carolina Maria de Jesus it is best to examine Carolina through the eyes of her children Vera Eunice, José Carlos (Zé Carlos), and João José. The book entitled The Life and Death of Maria de Jesus provided vital information about the character of Carolina through interviews from both her second eldest son Zé and her daughter Vera.

During the interview Vera clearly describes how her mother devoted herself entirely to her dream of becoming a writer, without the help of others. Vera admired her mother's aspiration to create a better life not only for herself but for her children. Although Carolina was a difficult person to live with, Vera stated "There is no one in the world I admire more than her."[5] Vera stresses how the success of her mother's work quickly resulted in the family constantly traveling, attending parties, and living in large mansions that seemed almost prison-like due to their great size. Constantly praising her mother during the interview, Vera gives thanks to her life history completely to the work of her mother; she would have not been able attend school but for the success of her mother, .

Vera constantly mentions the danger of living in the favela and although she and her siblings were born poor through their mother's suffering fought for a better life for her children. Violence in the favela made it dangerous for Vera and her brothers to be on the streets with her mother, so most of their time was spent waiting and sometimes studying in their shack awaiting her return. Carolina rarely let her children leave their shack in fear of their safety. Later, leaving her children became too dangerous. Vera professed: "We didn’t have enough money to buy proper food, but my mother wanted us to stay out of the favela! She disliked not only the favela, but the people who lived in it…my mother gave [João and Zé Carlos] money to stay away the whole day. They only returned at night, to sleep. Movie tickets ended up costing much of our money for food, but she preferred it that way. She preferred to leave at dawn, with her sack on her shoulders, to walk, walk, walk and to go to bed hungry, rather than to leave us alone in Canindé."[6] "Hunger is the world plague of the favela", Vera stated.[7]

Socially, Vera made it clear that there was always a man in her mother's life. Carolina simply loved being infatuated with men and adored love making. She stressed how Carolina did not like the black men living in the favela and that they did not favor Carolina too much either. When she lived in Sacramento, she was sometimes called a witch, but in Canindé she was merely regarded as eccentric. They were less in awe of her writing, and more intimidated by it: "In the favela, they thought that she was crazy, walking with her notebook under her arm. There were people who laughed. The worst ones laughed at her piles of paper, but they stopped when they realized that it was neither a joke nor craziness" (103). She threatened to write about people in her book if she got upset. Jealousy of her writing, men, and lifestyle resulted in other faveladas becoming her enemies. However, this did not stop Carolina continuing to write about what was happening in the favela.

During this interview Vera recalls an event specifically showing her mother's love and protection for her children. She told about a time during her childhood where she was playing in the grass when a man approached her and asked her to help him find something. The two of them headed down towards a river and soon this stranger began removing Vera’s clothes and raping her. A mother's instinct warned Carolina that her daughter was in trouble, and soon she made her way down to the river, rescuing her daughter from this stranger.

Before the publication of her work Vera notices her mother's obsession with Audálio Dantas, her publisher, and was constantly anxious about him sending word about her diary. Soon after her publication Vera found herself attending her mother's book signings, wearing new clothes, and traveling all around Brazil. Soon everything Vera, her brothers, and her mother wanted was at their fingertips. Vera said her mother always wanted to be the center of attention, and aspired to become a singer and an actress. Despite her efforts to do so, her publisher informed her that this would not benefit her and that she should continue writing her books.

Soon after the family moved away from the favela and into Santana the children quickly learned about prejudice. Here, Carolina and the family lived in a large brick house that seemed almost like a prison due to its size. Other children in the neighborhood were not allowed to play with Vera and her two brothers because other families considered Carolina "marked by the favela",[8] This was unusual to Vera and her brothers because they were so used to playing outside, but in Santana they remained in their home and did not interact with other children.

Despite her fame and fortune Vera noticed her mother becoming impatient due to her lack of privacy. Before her publication all Carolina wanted was to have her writing noticed, but now she started to regret this decision. Now that money was plentiful Carolina began to spend without paying attention to what she was spending her earnings on. She had intentions of sending both Zé and Vera to Italy but soon changed her mind and decided to spend her money on Parelheiros where she and her three children moved. Here, the family loved their country land and Vera saw her mother had become hard working again; growing crops, taking care of the household once again, and tending to João as his health began to fail. The family could not seek medical help during the time where João was ill because they did not have a work card, required by the social security agency.

João eventually died of kidney failure four months after his mother passed from respiratory failure in 1977.[2] Vera Eunice, interviewed in 1994, married and became a teacher, and at the time was a night-time student at a small public college. She wanted to be an English-language translator. On the other hand, her youngest son Zé Carlos was twice divorced, occasionally homeless, an alcoholic, but purportedly extremely intelligent like Carolina. Along with his intelligence he was simultaneously angry and erratic – again, a trait of his mother.

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