One of the characteristics differentiating Carolina Maria de Jesus from her neighbors in the Canindé favela was her unique perspective of life. Although living among the lowest classes of society, Carolina had dreams and aspirations like those who lived most comfortably in Brazil during the mid-1900s. Some would argue that all members of society, regardless of social or economic status, have goals and ambitions of some sort. However, Carolina Maria de Jesus was a woman who believed that her dreams could be realized, and against great odds, many of them were. She created a paradigm unlike any of her favelado counterparts, and lived accordingly until she was finally able to move her family into the modest middle-class neighborhood of Alto de Santana in São Paulo.
At no point in Carolina's life did she accept the class of society she was born into. The activities that Carolina used to occupy her free time, her decision to avoid the many vices present in everyday favela life, as well as her choice of sexual partners, all indicate that while she was physically in the favela her mind was elsewhere. For instance, "what set Carolina apart in Canindé was her penchant for spending several hours a day writing". Within a highly illiterate neighborhood writing was a particularly rare accomplishment. She wrote poems, novels and stories. In the early 1940s, Carolina began taking her work to editors in an attempt to get it published. She persevered until 1960, when Brazilian journalist Audalio Dantas published her diary, Quarto de Despejo (Garbage Room).
Among the many things that Carolina chose to write about in her diary were the people living around her. She describes herself as being very different from the other favelados, and claimed that "she detested other blacks from her social class". While she watched many of the people around her succumb to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, violence, and robbery, she chose to stay loyal to her children and her writing. Carolina was consistently able to provide for her children by recycling used trash for money or foraging through garbage cans for food and clothing. By saving some of the paper she collected, Carolina had the material she needed to continue her writing.
Another atypical part of Carolina's life concerned her choice of sexual partners. Although it was not unusual for faveladas to seek lighter-skinned partners, since light skin was associated with higher economic status, Carolina never used her relationships to better her own situation. The fathers of her children were all white foreigners from Italy, Portugal, and the United States. Many of her lovers offered to marry Carolina but she accepted none of their proposals, even though they would have lifted her out of poverty. A possible explanation may be that she did not want anyone to compromise her way of living. Regardless of the reason, Carolina stayed true to her beliefs and would not submit to the way of life that the favela offered her.