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Poncia Vincencio

by Conceicao Evaristo
translated by Paloma Martinez-Cruz

      BOOK QUOTE: "Poncia Vicencio's husband went to work with a new worry burdening his beleaguered frame... He intuited...that Poncia Vincencio just needed to live out her mysteries, fulfill her destiny."

A fascinating debut novel by Afro-Brazilian writer Conceiecao Evaristo. She is a professor of Brazilian Literature at Catholic University (Rio de Janeiro) and is pursuing her doctorate in comparative literature. Her work speaks to women of all races and homelands, as it addresses social factors that have an effect on families. Specifically, she concerns herself with the power that women present in their roles as mothers and the constant battles to provide adequately for the young in societies where youth is not valued.

Poncia is the title character of this intriguing novel, and the story is of her physical and emotional journey from the land of her ancestors to the dazzle and confusion of big city life. As many searching women have discovered before this protagonist, it is hard, if not impossible, to leave your roots behind. Poncia is also struggling with a "gift," a psychic one, inherited from her grandfather. As she struggles with her new life, and with the meanings and powers of her gift, the tales of family, dreams and hopes are interwoven in a seamless tale of almost poetical beauty and rawness.

We found ourselves caught up in the beauty and starkness of the remarkable view of black Latin American Ms Evaristo's work provides. Published originally in Portuguese in 2003, the tale evolves around the Brazilians of African ancestry and their amalgamation of Catholicism and African spirituality (called Candomble). The novel provides some unique viewpoints from a society that is not well known to Westerners. Skillfully weaving the rural aspects (i.e. lack of education, belief in signs and mysticism) with the travails of urban living, Evaristo writes the character of Poncia as one who has lived the life, at least in spirit. We are drawn into the story, caught up by beliefs and viewpoints that are unknown to us, and enriched by the rhythm of Evaristo's prose.

The translator, Paloma Martinez-Cruz has done a remarkable job of giving the Western reader the flavor and meaning of the original work, without making the book too awkward or difficult to read. This is a serious work, one that will certainly provide food for thought for the reader, and should be read over and over again, so all the meanings and depths in the book can wash over us again and again.

The Book

Host Publications
January 2007
More at
NOTE: debut novel

The Reviewer

Laura Strathman Hulka
Reviewed 2007
© 2006