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In the tradition of Detroit: An American Autopsy and Maximum City comes a deeply reported and beautifully written biography of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro from prizewinning journalist and Brazilian native Juliana Barbassa. Juliana Barbassa moved a great deal throughout her life, but Rio was always home. After twenty-one years abroad, she returned to fin In the tradition of Detroit: An American Autopsy and Maximum City comes a deeply reported and beautifully written biography of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro from prizewinning journalist and Brazilian native Juliana Barbassa. Juliana Barbassa moved a great deal throughout her life, but Rio was always home. After twenty-one years abroad, she returned to find the city that once ravaged by inflation, drug wars, corrupt leaders, and dying neighborhoods was now on the precipice of a major change. Rio has always aspired to the pantheon of global capitals, and under the spotlight of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games it seems that its moment has come. But in order to prepare itself for the world stage, Rio must vanquish the entrenched problems that Barbassa recalls from her childhood. Turning this beautiful but deeply flawed place into a predictable, pristine showcase of the best that Brazil has to offer in just a few years is a tall order—and with the whole world watching, the stakes couldn't be higher. With a cast of larger-than-life characters who are driving this fast-moving juggernaut or who risk getting caught in its gears, this kaleidoscopic portrait of Rio introduces the reader to the people who make up this city of extremes, revealing their aspirations and their grit, their violence, their hungers and their splendor, and shedding light on the future of this city they are building together. Dancing with the Devil in the City of God is an insider perspective into a city on the brink from a native daughter whose life, hopes, and fortunes are entwined with those of the city she portrays.


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In the tradition of Detroit: An American Autopsy and Maximum City comes a deeply reported and beautifully written biography of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro from prizewinning journalist and Brazilian native Juliana Barbassa. Juliana Barbassa moved a great deal throughout her life, but Rio was always home. After twenty-one years abroad, she returned to fin In the tradition of Detroit: An American Autopsy and Maximum City comes a deeply reported and beautifully written biography of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro from prizewinning journalist and Brazilian native Juliana Barbassa. Juliana Barbassa moved a great deal throughout her life, but Rio was always home. After twenty-one years abroad, she returned to find the city that once ravaged by inflation, drug wars, corrupt leaders, and dying neighborhoods was now on the precipice of a major change. Rio has always aspired to the pantheon of global capitals, and under the spotlight of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games it seems that its moment has come. But in order to prepare itself for the world stage, Rio must vanquish the entrenched problems that Barbassa recalls from her childhood. Turning this beautiful but deeply flawed place into a predictable, pristine showcase of the best that Brazil has to offer in just a few years is a tall order—and with the whole world watching, the stakes couldn't be higher. With a cast of larger-than-life characters who are driving this fast-moving juggernaut or who risk getting caught in its gears, this kaleidoscopic portrait of Rio introduces the reader to the people who make up this city of extremes, revealing their aspirations and their grit, their violence, their hungers and their splendor, and shedding light on the future of this city they are building together. Dancing with the Devil in the City of God is an insider perspective into a city on the brink from a native daughter whose life, hopes, and fortunes are entwined with those of the city she portrays.

30 review for Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley For me, as for many people in the world, Brazil means football. Further thought brings to mind Carnival, and then comes the favelas, then drugs, then the beaches, then pollution, and that’s it. And that’s rather unfair to Brazil in general and Rio de Janeiro in particular. For most people outside of Brazil, Brazil is either rainforest or Rio. It’s like the East Coast of the United States being New York or Washington (or the United States being New York or LA). While Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley For me, as for many people in the world, Brazil means football. Further thought brings to mind Carnival, and then comes the favelas, then drugs, then the beaches, then pollution, and that’s it. And that’s rather unfair to Brazil in general and Rio de Janeiro in particular. For most people outside of Brazil, Brazil is either rainforest or Rio. It’s like the East Coast of the United States being New York or Washington (or the United States being New York or LA). While Barbassa’s book is about Rio, in particular about a Rio in a state of change as it prepares for the World Cup and Olympics, she does note that Brazil is far more than Rio, that Rio itself if far more than what makes it into the movies or the nightly newscast. Barbassa starts her book with a newscast, one that shows the naming of Rio for the 2016 Olympics. This compels her to journey back to her city after years away. The book chronicles the city as it undergoes changes in getting already for both the World Cup and the Olympics. It ends with; well I don’t really see how it is a spoiler anymore but anyway, with the World Cup and the Brazilian National Team’s fate in that tournament. Barbassa paints the city, not just by chronicling the events that made international headlines, such as assault on the favelas or the mudslides that wipes out smaller communities, but also her own struggles in the city – such as her quest to finding living space. The use of a personal story, but one that most people moving to or living in Rio go through, actually gives more to the book than leaving it out. It also allows a closer and more intimate look at what living in the city entails, not for someone who is rich or poor, but in the middle. The most interesting and engrossing sections are not the parts about the war on the drug gangs or the invasion of the favelas; they are the sections about the mudslides and the environment. In the section about the mudslides, Barbassa captures the feeling of the people, as well as her reaction to the events, but also pulls the reader along with her. Her descriptive writing is so vivid that sounds and smell are there even if you are reading it a nicely air conditioned room as I was. The environment appears not only in the chapters about the dumps and sewage, but also about the struggle of living in certain areas of the city as well as the cataloging of animals. And Barbassa looks are more than the human animal. If you are reading this book expecting to see a detailed analysis of Carnival, nope. While there is one description of one Carnival, Barbassa uses it more as an introduction to changing views on homosexuality and transgender issue. The device work very well, and it also extends to looking at prostitution in the city – which Barbassa does in some depth, offering some good analysis, while focusing on how even this is changing with the passage of time. The book is timely not because it comes out a year after the World Cup and a year before the Olympics, but because it gives context to those events. Too often we only look at the major sporting events though a lens of the event – be it the idea of a success or a failure – Barbassa’s book allows us to see both the human element as a success and as a loss. The question is, as always, what is the price of success? Does success come with a brilliant televised event or with the fulfillment of the lives of the people who live in the area? How does a city keep moving, growing, changing, and fighting when the solutions don’t work or aren’t even considered? Such struggles are not just central to the fading American city, such as Detroit, but are more global in impact. I feel I must apologize to the publisher who approved the ARC for a reader who loved the book, but whose area of expertise and study is not the urban city. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, however. In many ways, it makes the perfect work to use in a class simply because there is enough coverage of various topics to promote conversation and debate.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Rio de Janeiro is quite possibly the most flamboyant, picturesque, and vibrant city on the planet. The author describes much of this, but with many of the undertones as well – the lawlessness of the Favelas’, the raw sewage that appears to be leaking everywhere, the tremendous economic growth that has imbued a “can do” spirit, but has also raised expectations of all classes of society – expectations which have not been fulfilled. We are told how the police forces have attempted to re-take many of Rio de Janeiro is quite possibly the most flamboyant, picturesque, and vibrant city on the planet. The author describes much of this, but with many of the undertones as well – the lawlessness of the Favelas’, the raw sewage that appears to be leaking everywhere, the tremendous economic growth that has imbued a “can do” spirit, but has also raised expectations of all classes of society – expectations which have not been fulfilled. We are told how the police forces have attempted to re-take many of the favelas’ which were under the control of drug gangs, but this is still very much a work in progress. Construction of new buildings (like condominiums in boxed in communities) is growing enormously, but there is a lack of city planning and sewage is spewing out close to Rio’s beautiful beaches. There have been demonstrations leading to police violence – and some fear that Brazil is returning to its’ bad old days of becoming a dictatorship. Everybody in Brazil now wants more – better education, better public transportation, more safety (law and order). With the World Cup – and in a few weeks the Olympics, many have wondered where all this new prosperity is going. Corruption has always been a part of Brazil as recent news events testify. The author , who was born in Rio and is a journalist, describes the astonishment and shock when returning to Rio after spending time in the Middle East – the polarities of the two cultures are extreme – in Rio their are colours, demonstrativeness, noise, open sexual physicality (men being shirtless, women in tight revealing clothes...). There are many observations and interviews of the many levels of Rio’s society. This is both an instructive and entertaining perspective of Rio.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marti

    It's kind of interesting that the author of this book is an expat-Brazilian who only lived in the country briefly in the late '80s and again starting in 2010 which roughly corresponds to my own personal visits. Hence, I did not see the gradual process of gentrification, only the end result which appeared to emulate New York (meaning that a lot of the character was replaced by "glitz" even if the city did seem a lot safer and there were no children panhandling on the streets). Back then the "gent It's kind of interesting that the author of this book is an expat-Brazilian who only lived in the country briefly in the late '80s and again starting in 2010 which roughly corresponds to my own personal visits. Hence, I did not see the gradual process of gentrification, only the end result which appeared to emulate New York (meaning that a lot of the character was replaced by "glitz" even if the city did seem a lot safer and there were no children panhandling on the streets). Back then the "gentrification on steroids" was only just beginning and was accelerated due to the discovery of oil off the coast which would put Brazil into the top three oil-producing nations. While everything in this book is undoubtedly true, I wondered how we survived three trips there as one gets the impression that the streets are filled with machine-gun-toting gangsters who regularly blow up buses full of innocent bystanders and target cars going to and from the airport. In spite of this, when we were there, crime was actually down from the 1990s and the drastic inequality has been reduced enough that a genuine middle class has emerged (though crime has been creeping back since 2010). However, the double-whammy of hosting back-to-back World Cup and Olympics is putting enormous strain on basic services like hospitals and schools. Also, in the haste to clear up the blight they don't want the international media to see, the city seems to have forgotten its promises to favela residents who were finally given titles to their land and in some cases, provided infrastructure like sewers and garbage pickup. Instead, official policy has once again reverted to simply bulldozing their homes and relocating them to the remotest outskirts of the city where there are no jobs and no transportation to get them to the jobs they already have. One resident describes how this is the third time he was evicted this way. The same type of thing is happening in the red light districts which are not illegal, but not for outsiders to see. But it's not just the favelas and prostitutes who are having it rough. The get-rich-quick gold-rush mentality inspired by all the construction and oil-drilling is displacing all but the foreign investor class. The city is expanding so fast, that it cannot even install sewer systems to keep up and is polluting the swamps and ocean so much that on certain days one is advised to stay out of the water (this is especially true for the gated communities springing up in the west side of town where the Olympic Village is being built). It's also evident in places like "Lapa" which used to be roughly comparable to Greenwich Village in that it housed a lot of artists and transvestites. While the author profiles some transgender residents who are still hanging on, the Saturday night we were there looked more like Mardi Gras in Philadelphia (the one in 2001 where 40,000 very intoxicated teenagers crammed South Street, smashed store windows and threw bottles at the police). All of this leads up to the final chapter on the World Cup which was preceded by near riots as average citizens expressed their anger at the billions of dollars wasted. It was so bad the bus carrying the Brazilian Team itself was surrounded by protesting teachers, who were in turn clubbed by police. The sullen mood was so pervasive that the government produced an ad campaign to promote the World Cup to Brazilians. (Does it get any weirder?) In the end, Cariocas did put their troubles aside long enough to make the actual tournament the most memorable ever for those who attended, even if Team Brasil itself imploded under the pressure of seeing whole country pin all of their hopes to another World Cup title. Though "futbol" has always allowed the fans to sweep all their problems under the rug, the author believes that the painful and humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany might have shaken the "Samba-Futbol-Carnival" image enough that they may focus more on solving the tough problems that are still ahead. It will be interesting to see what happens during the Olympics. Because the timeline is short, the decision making process is also unilateral, leading to a lot of bad decisions fueled by speculation that will ruin the environment and take at least 40 years to correct. And when speculators go bust (as in the case of Eike Batista who lost everything and put a huge damper on the boom), the taxpayer needs to step in. You've got to wonder why on earth would anyone want to host the games?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bob Schnell

    Advanced Reading Copy review Due to be published July 28, 2015 Juliana Barbassa calls Rio de Janeiro home, but she spent much of her young life following her family around the Middle East. When she decided to move back to Rio as an adult, she found a city trying to transform itself into a player on the global economic map, thanks to oil, the World Cup and the Olympics. Her book "Dancing with the Devil in the City of God" gives us Rio's history and attempts to explain how the land of samba, soccer Advanced Reading Copy review Due to be published July 28, 2015 Juliana Barbassa calls Rio de Janeiro home, but she spent much of her young life following her family around the Middle East. When she decided to move back to Rio as an adult, she found a city trying to transform itself into a player on the global economic map, thanks to oil, the World Cup and the Olympics. Her book "Dancing with the Devil in the City of God" gives us Rio's history and attempts to explain how the land of samba, soccer and Carnaval got to its present state of gaping economic inequality, heavy-handed police tactics, political corruption, crumbling infrastructure and potential environmental disaster. The book also shows what steps were taken to get the city ready for the 2014 World Cup and what still needs to be done for the 2016 Olympics. This book had resonance for me since I have been visiting Rio since the 1990's, have friends there and have seen first hand some of the problems the author outlines. I have also seen the better aspects of the beach life that has been bringing tourists to Copacabana and Ipanema since Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did "Flying Down to Rio" in 1933. Ms. Barbassa gives us the highs and lows of life under the watchful eye of the Cristo atop Corcovado. Her conclusion is cautiously hopeful that the city will get through the Olympics and use the momentum to keep improving. The alternative is just too depressing to consider.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kevin McAllister

    Seeing that Brazil did pull off The World Cup with only a few minor glitches I was a bit surprised by just how much author Juliana Barbassa focused on the negative rather than the positive in her aptly entitled work "Dancing With The Devil In The City Of God" But frankly, as she so clearly demonstrates, there is a lot of negative to focus on. From the abusive police force, the corrupt politicians, or the inept business men. There's an awful lot do digest in this troubling read. As Barbassa menti Seeing that Brazil did pull off The World Cup with only a few minor glitches I was a bit surprised by just how much author Juliana Barbassa focused on the negative rather than the positive in her aptly entitled work "Dancing With The Devil In The City Of God" But frankly, as she so clearly demonstrates, there is a lot of negative to focus on. From the abusive police force, the corrupt politicians, or the inept business men. There's an awful lot do digest in this troubling read. As Barbassa mentioned there is a Brazilian phrase "Para Ingles ver’ (for the English to see). Being a native of Brazil Barbassa is able to see through the rosy colored picture Brazilian advertising firms present to world and provides the reader with cold hard facts. She ends the book on a hopeful note, stating that the everyday men and women of Brazil themselves, know how to persist and prevail, and they will be the driving force that will lead Brazil to a successful hosting of the 2016 Olympics.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    This is a good book about Brazil in the 21st century as it prepares to host the two biggest international sporting events - the 2014 World Cup & the 2016 Summer Olympics. Barbassa is a US-based journalist who'd been born in Brazil (though hadn't lived there in a while). She does a good job, but for whatever reason I had trouble getting into this. I read it on-and-off (mostly off) for a month and a half. I can't really say why - but it didn't grab me. It primarily goes over the current problems/c This is a good book about Brazil in the 21st century as it prepares to host the two biggest international sporting events - the 2014 World Cup & the 2016 Summer Olympics. Barbassa is a US-based journalist who'd been born in Brazil (though hadn't lived there in a while). She does a good job, but for whatever reason I had trouble getting into this. I read it on-and-off (mostly off) for a month and a half. I can't really say why - but it didn't grab me. It primarily goes over the current problems/challenges facing Brazil. This is understandable as things have gone south in the country in recent years. And there is plenty of problems to deal with. There is the massive criminal network Red Command. There is considerable pollution. There is massive corruption and red tape that make it hard to live. There are preposterous housing prices that put Silicon Valley to shame. There are the overlooked poor. There are marginalized sex workers. And the recent focus on the Big Sporting Events worsens many of the existing problems, or at least causes them to be overlooked. The book ends with the 2014 World Cup, and how the mood going in was surprisingly ambivilent. Protesting teachers were beaten by cops in front of the national soccer team, for instance. The country actually needed to engage in a public relations campaign to get Brazilians excited about hosting the World Cup. Many felt it was too costly and was flat out bad for the country. They came around - but then the team lost. The book itself does highlight many issues facing Brazil today. It did feel a little one-note at times. Anything on the positives? You'd hardly know there were any in this book. Also, the book feels strangely dated upon release given the current concerns over the Zika virus. Barbassa couldn't have forecast that, but still - it's always there in my mind when reading this account of Brazil's current problems. In all, a good book, but one that I just couldn't quite get into.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tawney

    I received this book compliments of Touchstone through the Goodreads First Reads program. Juliana Barbassa knows well that Rio is a city of contradictions. In 2010 she became the Associated Press Rio correspondent, returning to her native country and family. Brazil had been chosen as host of the World Cup and Rio would hold the 2016 Olympics. Many questioned the wisdom of these choices for a variety of reasons. Security was a prominent concern. Rio was violent, drug lords had taken command of fav I received this book compliments of Touchstone through the Goodreads First Reads program. Juliana Barbassa knows well that Rio is a city of contradictions. In 2010 she became the Associated Press Rio correspondent, returning to her native country and family. Brazil had been chosen as host of the World Cup and Rio would hold the 2016 Olympics. Many questioned the wisdom of these choices for a variety of reasons. Security was a prominent concern. Rio was violent, drug lords had taken command of favelas, holding the police at bay. A new approach to the problem lead to the police reoccupying territory, becoming a permanent presence. Barbassa had arrived just in time to report on the largest of these operations. Her curiosity led her to research many aspects of this situation, how it came to be, what it might mean for the future. She does the same for other aspects of life in Rio, sometimes using her own experiences as illustrations, more often seeking out people who can explain and show what it is like. Brazil had been going through some good years economically and Rio was growing. As in other places this puts pressure on infrastructure, especially sewage. It also leads to exemptions and sweetheart deals for developers while pressuring favela residents out of their homes. Plans for improvements evaporated once the games were granted and elections won. The economy has slowed, the population isn't completely happy with the vast expenditures for sporting venues. Many would like to see more spent on education, health care, environment and less corruption. But when the World Cup rolled around the nation put on a good show. Can Rio pull it off for the Olympics - they will probably manage, but the problems will remain. Although not neutral, Barbassa is an excellent reporter. She writes well, finds and uses interesting sources and makes insightful observations.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “Dancing with the Devil in the City of God” by Juliana Barbassa, published by Touchstone Books. Category – History/Brazil Publication Date – July 28, 2015 Juliana Barbassa was born in Brazil but spent most of her life abroad until she returned in 2010. She tells the story of her city, which she truly loves, and the problems in has incurred in attempting to become a global capital. The city of Brazil, prior to 2010, was a city faced with major problems including drug wars, government corruption, and “Dancing with the Devil in the City of God” by Juliana Barbassa, published by Touchstone Books. Category – History/Brazil Publication Date – July 28, 2015 Juliana Barbassa was born in Brazil but spent most of her life abroad until she returned in 2010. She tells the story of her city, which she truly loves, and the problems in has incurred in attempting to become a global capital. The city of Brazil, prior to 2010, was a city faced with major problems including drug wars, government corruption, and uncontrolled inflation. It was imperative that something had to be done in light of the World Cup coming to Brazil in 2014. Maybe even more important was the winning of the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. In six short years Brazil would have to make an incredible turn around in areas that have been overlooked for years. The first action taken was the removal of the gangs from the slums. It took both a police action and the assistance of the Army and Navy to accomplish this. Although still plagued with gangs and drug trafficking the situation seems to be under some control. Another major problem was sanitation. The rivers, lakes, and bays were unfit for drinking, swimming or anything else. These problems still remain and could very well be unresolved in 2016. Prostitution, legal in Brazil, was another major obstacle that had to be addressed. An effort has been made to remove the more seedy aspects from view but the World Cup and the Olympics will only draw prostitution to go underground. A very interesting book and although things seemed to go well for the World Cup, I think much of it was due to window dressing. I would certainly want to read this book and study more on improvements in Brazil before I scheduled by flight to attend the Olympics. I commend Juliana on her forthrightness in bringing these conditions to light, especially since in is her home country.

  9. 5 out of 5

    James Banzer

    We will hear much about the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in the coming year. That's where the 2016 Summer Olympics will happen. Brazil's second largest city is pulling out all the stops to impress the visitors. Journalist Juliana Barbassa examines the city, giving us some insight into its troubled past. Her impressive book is called Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink. Brazil has had a tumultuous history. Barbassa notes that there were no less than six curre We will hear much about the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in the coming year. That's where the 2016 Summer Olympics will happen. Brazil's second largest city is pulling out all the stops to impress the visitors. Journalist Juliana Barbassa examines the city, giving us some insight into its troubled past. Her impressive book is called Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink. Brazil has had a tumultuous history. Barbassa notes that there were no less than six currencies between 1986 and 1984. Today it has one of the world's emerging economies. The author recounts some of the events that over the years have led to the present. The country was long beset with criminal activity from an organization known as the Red Command, which was born in the prisons and moved into the cocaine trade. The author chose to return to her native country, having lived in Europe and San Francisco. Her initial choice of residence upon moving back turned out to be environmentally unfriendly. She was beset by health problems and forced to change neighborhoods. Finding a good place to live turned out not to be an easy chore in Rio. There is hope for the future. The discovery of offshore oil was huge news for the country's economy. Things really began to look up when Rio landed soccer's World Cup in 2014. And now the city is overjoyed about next year's Summer Olympics. To make way for that event, the city's marginalized are being displaced from their homes. This sort of thing is not new in a country where urban renewal projects are a well-known part of history. Unfortunately common laborers are being forced to move to areas great distances from the convenient work-centers. But life will continue. I received a complimentary copy of the book from Goodreads.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Really interesting book about Rio and Brasil as a whole. This isnt another travel book that focuses on culture, festivities, etc, but a well researched expose of Rio's ugly side, the corruption, pollution, police brutality, etc. The chapters on the pollution of Rio's bays, the horrific state of favelas and lack of sanitation were fantastic. Teh book reads as an in-depth Economist article. I only give it 4/5 stars because the author fails to express the every day frustration of average Brasilians a Really interesting book about Rio and Brasil as a whole. This isnt another travel book that focuses on culture, festivities, etc, but a well researched expose of Rio's ugly side, the corruption, pollution, police brutality, etc. The chapters on the pollution of Rio's bays, the horrific state of favelas and lack of sanitation were fantastic. Teh book reads as an in-depth Economist article. I only give it 4/5 stars because the author fails to express the every day frustration of average Brasilians at the crime and violence around them. This really is a huge issue. The author seems to gloss over the actions of the traffickers and robbers and in the chapter on the favela crackdown, she paints one trafficker Diego, in very sympathetic tones, as if it wasnt his fault he became a criminal, but the entire society's. In one of her last chapters, the author talks about how some local residents who caught a robber that repeatedly stole from old women and terrorized the same neighborhood, they tied him up to a lightpost naked and chained him as an example to other criminals. The author writes, "After that January, that spot on that sidewalk would be a daily reminder that among my neighbors were those who'd slip a U-lock around the skinny neck of a teenager and leave him exposed and bleeding on a public street. These were the same men who stood next to me in the supermarket line chatting about prices and the weather.." The author is shocked at what some residents did but does not write about the daily fears of an average person at being robbed, killed or shot at. It came across that in her view, every criminal in a favela is a direct by product of the govt's or society's failing, and not his own choices.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Barbara White

    Wow, a great look at the city of Rio de Janeiro, the turmoil within the government, and how special events really take place when on the world stage. This is truly an interesting perspective of Rio and the inner workings of Juliana's home city. Thanks to Goodreads First Reads for a copy of Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink. Wow, a great look at the city of Rio de Janeiro, the turmoil within the government, and how special events really take place when on the world stage. This is truly an interesting perspective of Rio and the inner workings of Juliana's home city. Thanks to Goodreads First Reads for a copy of Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Acacia

    Review of the ARC. A decent book, very good for anyone who doesn't have prior knowledge of Brazilian history but wants to know what's brought the country where it is today. Good examination of the working class. One chapter on trans sex workers does have some transphobic language, as if the author wasn't sure what language to use, but otherwise good at showing the diversity and inequality in Rio. Review of the ARC. A decent book, very good for anyone who doesn't have prior knowledge of Brazilian history but wants to know what's brought the country where it is today. Good examination of the working class. One chapter on trans sex workers does have some transphobic language, as if the author wasn't sure what language to use, but otherwise good at showing the diversity and inequality in Rio.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stan Smith

    This confirmed a lot of what I'd already sensed about Brazil traveling there on business. I like the hopeful tone which permeates, but it is also frank in the assessment of how much work there is still left to be done for Brazil to realize its potential. This confirmed a lot of what I'd already sensed about Brazil traveling there on business. I like the hopeful tone which permeates, but it is also frank in the assessment of how much work there is still left to be done for Brazil to realize its potential.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zeb Kantrowitz

    note: this was a free eBook from NetGalley Juliana Barbassa was born in Rio and left as a teenager. She spent twenty one years travelling the world and returned home in 2010. She wanted to see how it had changed and was preparing for the World Cup in 2014 and the summer Olympics in 2016. What she found was a city that had exploded in size with a population of 13 million. It had all of its’ old flavor but also the same problems as any unplanned third world country. Rio, like almost any ‘major’ cit note: this was a free eBook from NetGalley Juliana Barbassa was born in Rio and left as a teenager. She spent twenty one years travelling the world and returned home in 2010. She wanted to see how it had changed and was preparing for the World Cup in 2014 and the summer Olympics in 2016. What she found was a city that had exploded in size with a population of 13 million. It had all of its’ old flavor but also the same problems as any unplanned third world country. Rio, like almost any ‘major’ city in the world is not like its’ country, it is a ‘concept’ and an illusion, a unique place apart from anywhere else. For Barbassa returning home is both happy and sad. The downtown has become a sparkling city (the Marvelous City) with all the amenities of many cities in the USA, including a new subway and even Starbucks. But it’s still the same Rio that most ex-pat Carioca’s know. Residents of Rio are called Cariocas after the creek where the first settlements were built. The creek itself has disappeared underground and like Fleet Creek in London is now used as a sewer. She travels all around the city and environs to see how it has expanded and prospered. First she takes a tour of some of the favelas, many that were notorious in the past but have been cleaned out by the Police and Military. The drug dealing gangs were forced out and the Police now have a strong present in the areas but there are still few utilities, and mail is seldom delivered except to the street corners closest to Rio. But even with the growth of West Rio (the area around Jacarapagua) there are still the failures of the government to ensure that the environment is protected. Buildings (40 story apartments) go up without sewers or treatment plants. The discharge from this housing goes directly into the lake and sea areas to be used for the 2016 Olympics. Multiple lane highways have been built by the government to give access to the area which is being privately developed. Many structures are put up so shoddily that they begin to show stress cracks (as do the highways) after a few years because they haven’t been properly anchored to the ridges they are built on. But Barbassa has hope for the city and the Cariocas after seeing how they were able to handle the 2014 World Cup. Only time will tell. Interesting and informative reading. Zeb Kantrowitz zworstblog.blogspot.com [email protected]

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Rass

    I just have to start off by saying that this book is amazing. It mixes the amazing thrills of having and upcoming Olympic Games, with the current drug war that this city is facing. As the whole world is watching, the people of Rio de Janerio are fast at work, knowing soon they will be in the spotlight. The Brazilian people found out they world be holding the games in early October of 2009. This could not come at a better time, because this city was in distress. While it had its amazing beaches a I just have to start off by saying that this book is amazing. It mixes the amazing thrills of having and upcoming Olympic Games, with the current drug war that this city is facing. As the whole world is watching, the people of Rio de Janerio are fast at work, knowing soon they will be in the spotlight. The Brazilian people found out they world be holding the games in early October of 2009. This could not come at a better time, because this city was in distress. While it had its amazing beaches and iconic structures, this city was facing serious drug trafficking problems. Rio had become a hot bed for drug traffickers and drug dealers. What better motivation other than holding the Summer Olympics, for its government to get its act together and clean up the city. On top of the drug problems, the city was facing mass poverty, within its inner city. The author allows you to get a deeper understanding for this amazing place, yet shares the dark secrets within it. I am 100% a fan of this book for a number of reasons. The main reason I like this book, is the inner touch you get when reading. You can vividly picture all the places and events she is talking about. One thing I didn't enjoy about this book, was the timing in which the book was released. The book placed on sale a year after the last World Cup, they held. I thought the story would bee focusing on the future, not the past to an extend. Although I disagree with some of the faces on the success of the World Cup, it didn't stop me from enjoying the book. I would strongly recommend this book, to anyone interested, in the world issues, or current events. I am both interested in world issues and current events and I am proud to say I really enjoyed the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbm1020

    This is a fascinating look at the fabled city of Rio de Janiero, Brazil's huge urban coastal venue for the 2016 Olympics. Barbassa deals with great love and sadness with her old home city and its woes. She pays a perilous visit up into the mountains to the origin of the clear stream running through Rio in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and now clogged with sewage from the unofficial neighborhoods in the foothills to the former greenspaces between the highways, all the way to the sea and far o This is a fascinating look at the fabled city of Rio de Janiero, Brazil's huge urban coastal venue for the 2016 Olympics. Barbassa deals with great love and sadness with her old home city and its woes. She pays a perilous visit up into the mountains to the origin of the clear stream running through Rio in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and now clogged with sewage from the unofficial neighborhoods in the foothills to the former greenspaces between the highways, all the way to the sea and far offshore. She visits mudslide victims and describes the broken houses and half-buried bodies that lie unreclaimed for days while the government helicopters wait for the rain to stop. She talks about finding an apartment where the shower isn't over the toilet, and where the smog doesn't choke her as soon as she opens a window. She catalogs the various kinds and grades of sex services in the city, talks with a "travesti" leader and notes the government's sporadic efforts to punish or hide what the city offers to European tourists at night. She talks with a woman in a "favela" or self-built neighborhood where families have built their own homes - legally, on "unused land" - brick by brick over 2 or more generations and then are forced to flee as the government knocks down the houses, offering their occupants apartments in distant areas where no public transportation goes, cutting the workers off from their jobs, all in the name of gentrification and cosmetic "improvements" for tourists to see. There is so much more, but you should read the book if you are interested in what our Olympians are going to face this summer.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    In Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink, author Juliana Barbassa offers a timely and eminently readable portrayal of Rio at a critical point in its history. The 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have thrust the city onto the world stage,creating international excitement about these two events occurring in the iconic city. Ms. Barbassa delves into personal narratives that put a human face on stories in the news. Until now, I have rarely seen coverage in the Uni In Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink, author Juliana Barbassa offers a timely and eminently readable portrayal of Rio at a critical point in its history. The 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have thrust the city onto the world stage,creating international excitement about these two events occurring in the iconic city. Ms. Barbassa delves into personal narratives that put a human face on stories in the news. Until now, I have rarely seen coverage in the United States which goes beyond images of Cristo and scantily clad bodies on the beaches. She offers the history and back stories behind the headlines, and one cannot help but be moved by her words about the impact of rapid-fire development on such a beautiful yet fragile place. Ms. Barbassa shows clearly the clash between short-term development for these sporting events, and long-term city planning. She highlights the conflicts between the political, economic and social forces at work, in colorful interviews with favela dwellers, members of the police force, and politicians. It is a work of non-fiction, but manages to be suspenseful as it describes the wind-up to the World Cup and the Olympics. I had known something about Rio, having traveled there twice in the past and fallen for its many charms. This book gave me an insider’s look at the dizzying changes taking place right now in the cidade maravilhosa.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Days to go before Rio hosts the Olympics and I'm glad I just completed this compelling work. All I can hope is that the 2016 Games don't destroy the character of Rio or do more damage to the faltering Brazilian economy. The people Barbassa describes — from stoical single mothers in the favelas to prostitutes to activists — all seem ground down by the great plague of emerging nations: corruption. Every political institution is presented here as byzantine and terribly susceptible to graft, and eve Days to go before Rio hosts the Olympics and I'm glad I just completed this compelling work. All I can hope is that the 2016 Games don't destroy the character of Rio or do more damage to the faltering Brazilian economy. The people Barbassa describes — from stoical single mothers in the favelas to prostitutes to activists — all seem ground down by the great plague of emerging nations: corruption. Every political institution is presented here as byzantine and terribly susceptible to graft, and every civic program is never for certain or forever. Barbassa captures her city in lively prose; so lively, in fact, that at times I felt I was reading a novel. Whether depicting devastating floods or the characteristics of Rio's apartment dwellings, the prose is evocative and sure-footed. Chapters are compact primers on history,politics, the environment, sexual mores — my only surprise was that Carnaval was little discussed. My only mild reservation is the over-intrusion of the author's life in some chapters. While her role as both an insider and outsider is necessary context, where she goes for a run or when she visits her relatives is not. It's difficult to leave this book feeling that Rio's prospects are rising, but perhaps the resilient Cariocas will find a way to weather yet another political and economic storm. And I wish them much better than that.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    This is an enjoyable, easy-to-read look at various aspects of modern Brazil, with particular focus on Rio de Janiero. The book is very accessible for Americans, written by an AP reporter who was born in Brazil and returned when a spot in the AP bureau there opened up. Most interesting, to me, were the extent to which signs of stress were evident in Brazil's economy even before the oil price collapsed (I can only imagine what some of the chapters would look like now, with $30/bbl oil and Petrobra This is an enjoyable, easy-to-read look at various aspects of modern Brazil, with particular focus on Rio de Janiero. The book is very accessible for Americans, written by an AP reporter who was born in Brazil and returned when a spot in the AP bureau there opened up. Most interesting, to me, were the extent to which signs of stress were evident in Brazil's economy even before the oil price collapsed (I can only imagine what some of the chapters would look like now, with $30/bbl oil and Petrobras cutting capex massively), and how long the issues with waste in Rio's water have been apparent and acknowledged. The contamination is now drawing lots of attention, in the months leading up to the Olympics, but the author and indeed Brazilians had identified it long ago. The issues with hosting the Olympics or World Cup are well-documented, plagued with cost overruns and poor return on investment. But Brazil, unique among these hosts in being both a developing country and a democracy, seems particularly vulnerable. The Olympics, and build-up to them (particularly whether some of the water events are moved to cities with clean water), will be interesting to watch.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sheela

    This book was very well written and wove together several different topics across time and environments within Rio with more ease than I expected. I think the author's personal narrative of going back home lent a lot more credibility to her observations than a pure investigative novel would have read. It is appalling to me that this cycle of environmental and sociological decay is continued in Rio and that being on a stage for the world to see hasn't improved the situation at all. However, I als This book was very well written and wove together several different topics across time and environments within Rio with more ease than I expected. I think the author's personal narrative of going back home lent a lot more credibility to her observations than a pure investigative novel would have read. It is appalling to me that this cycle of environmental and sociological decay is continued in Rio and that being on a stage for the world to see hasn't improved the situation at all. However, I also admit that I'm sure such injustices go on around the world, but are not reported or revealed beyond their communities. If anything I wish that the author would publish a second volume that takes into account the execution of the Olympics and then the aftermath one to two years out. Barring that, I feel like she has provided a platform for readers to further investigate the specific issues raised in the book further. For example, I followed up on Vila Autodromo to see where the residents are and whether they reached a resolution (which they have not to date.) The publisher of that article was not the AP, showing that awareness is spreading of the humanitarian issues with these games.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    Journalist, Juliana Barbassa takes her reporting skills to look at her home country Brazil and how having both the World Cup and the Olympics take place there have an effect on the whole country in every way. This was definitely an eye opening book into Brazilian culture and how much they put into soccer. Barbassa writes this story in such a compelling way, using her own experiences, from being born in Brazil to moving back twenty years later, it’s very relatable to her topic of the government p Journalist, Juliana Barbassa takes her reporting skills to look at her home country Brazil and how having both the World Cup and the Olympics take place there have an effect on the whole country in every way. This was definitely an eye opening book into Brazilian culture and how much they put into soccer. Barbassa writes this story in such a compelling way, using her own experiences, from being born in Brazil to moving back twenty years later, it’s very relatable to her topic of the government pushing for both sporting events to happen in Brazil. She touches on pretty much every aspect of Brazilian life from politics to living conditions to love and oil, it all relates to soccer somehow. She does this quite effortlessly and it works as the story is fascinating to read, the pacing is done just right, and her craft for words is selective in the best way possible. The way Barbassa describes the game is incredible; she paints this beautiful picture making it so visual and perceptive, and with so much passion. This book takes Brazil and brings it to the forefront, showcasing the highs and the lows of a country and gives the reader an eye opener experience.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    Brazil native, educated and employed in the U.S. returns to Brazil, as an AP reporter, after the country was awarded the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. It is an amazing and disturbing account of life in Brazil and the facade the government is creating to host these events. It is of a prideful people unwilling to give up their land and homes, just because the government doesn't want the unsightly favelas (slums) visible during the the events watched by the world. All of the pictures I have Brazil native, educated and employed in the U.S. returns to Brazil, as an AP reporter, after the country was awarded the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. It is an amazing and disturbing account of life in Brazil and the facade the government is creating to host these events. It is of a prideful people unwilling to give up their land and homes, just because the government doesn't want the unsightly favelas (slums) visible during the the events watched by the world. All of the pictures I have seen of Rio and it's beautiful beaches are breathtaking. Unfortunately, many of the neighborhoods are not connected to sewage, so the people's waste runs into the bay where the Olympians are expected to compete. There are delays and corruption with the infrastructure needed to host such a massive event next year. The book takes us through the World Cup and Brazil's embarrassing defeat. It is not all gloom and doom, but portrays a diverse people, proud of their heritage and neighborhoods. A very compelling non-fiction read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Bolton

    Juliana Barbassa, who was born in Brazil, has returned to Rio as the AP's Rio de Janeiro correspondent. She gives a very detailed history of Rio and it's current state as it readies for the 2016 Olympic Games. Having only heard about Rio in movies and never traveled there, my eyes were opened to the many problems Rio has faced. I appreciated the author's ability to put herself in the heart of the issues and her interviews with the people of Rio. It was very interesting to hear the different pers Juliana Barbassa, who was born in Brazil, has returned to Rio as the AP's Rio de Janeiro correspondent. She gives a very detailed history of Rio and it's current state as it readies for the 2016 Olympic Games. Having only heard about Rio in movies and never traveled there, my eyes were opened to the many problems Rio has faced. I appreciated the author's ability to put herself in the heart of the issues and her interviews with the people of Rio. It was very interesting to hear the different perspectives of the people actually living there, from the police to the prostitutes to the leaders. If you are interested in the history and current life in Rio, read this book! I received this book for free through the goodreads, first reads program in exchange for my honest review. This is my honest review of Dancing with the Devil in the City of God.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    When I saw a review for this book I thought I would pick it up since the Rio Olympics are just a year away. I liked the book a lot. I learned a lot about the city. The bad side is that a lot of what I learned wasn't really positive. The poverty, the pollution, the crime. Much of the city is without access to sewage treatment. Many of the famed beaches are often closed due to fecal contamination. The city is economically segregated as well-to-do families live in gated communities leaving poor peo When I saw a review for this book I thought I would pick it up since the Rio Olympics are just a year away. I liked the book a lot. I learned a lot about the city. The bad side is that a lot of what I learned wasn't really positive. The poverty, the pollution, the crime. Much of the city is without access to sewage treatment. Many of the famed beaches are often closed due to fecal contamination. The city is economically segregated as well-to-do families live in gated communities leaving poor people to live in the favelas. Money meant to improve the lives of everyone ahead of the Olympics is lost to corruption and mishandling and poorly made decisions. In the end, it seems like the city may be able to look fine come next summer but it won't take much to peel off the outer façade and find the real Rio, warts and all, next door to the new, shiny facilities.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    I expected more from this, I guess. A lot of facets of contemporary Rio de Janeiro are explored, with a heavy emphasis on favelas and the city's response to the drug trade that flourishes there. Prostitution, the natural environment, onerous Brazilian bureaucracy, and of course futebol are also examined. I was surprised that race was barely even mentioned throughout the book; different economic classes are discussed but I would've been interested to read more about other social categories and th I expected more from this, I guess. A lot of facets of contemporary Rio de Janeiro are explored, with a heavy emphasis on favelas and the city's response to the drug trade that flourishes there. Prostitution, the natural environment, onerous Brazilian bureaucracy, and of course futebol are also examined. I was surprised that race was barely even mentioned throughout the book; different economic classes are discussed but I would've been interested to read more about other social categories and their stratification in Rio. There was also an absurd typo in the final chapter that I just cannot understand any editor missing. It's an interesting book overall, but slow, and I kinda struggled to finish it. However I'm sure I'll be glad I read it when the Rio Olympics arrive and I have a lot more background information on the host country.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Juliana Barbassa was born in Rio de Janeiro before moving around the world with her father's oil career. She return home to her city of birth in 2010 after Rio was awarded the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. She wanted to be part of the promise and to reconnect with her family and culture. This is an outsiders perspective with inside access to the building and preparing for these two world class sports events. Why I started this book: My family spent two years as expats in Brazil, and the coun Juliana Barbassa was born in Rio de Janeiro before moving around the world with her father's oil career. She return home to her city of birth in 2010 after Rio was awarded the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. She wanted to be part of the promise and to reconnect with her family and culture. This is an outsiders perspective with inside access to the building and preparing for these two world class sports events. Why I started this book: My family spent two years as expats in Brazil, and the country is close to our hearts. Plus, I needed to read this before the Olympics finished. Why I finished it: Fascinating and a little depressing. Brazil has lingered on the brink of world recognition for years. Making two steps forward, and one step back... into a dance of life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    Highly polished prose - one gets the feeling that the author went over this with a finetooth comb - in this readable book about one of the world's most alluring cities. It started slowly, with a tedious and overlong history of some gang, which was dry and textbookish and I almost abandoned the book, but luckily I pressed on and it paid off. It got more readable after that. Juliana put in a little of her own story and life, but not too much, striking a good balance. Most of the issues she describ Highly polished prose - one gets the feeling that the author went over this with a finetooth comb - in this readable book about one of the world's most alluring cities. It started slowly, with a tedious and overlong history of some gang, which was dry and textbookish and I almost abandoned the book, but luckily I pressed on and it paid off. It got more readable after that. Juliana put in a little of her own story and life, but not too much, striking a good balance. Most of the issues she describes are, of course, not news to any Latin Americanist, they're the same all over the continent, but she did put in some of the quintessentially Brazilian angles - sex, football and, this was a surprise, sewage. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Latin America.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Brazil seems to be in the news all the time lately. I am glad that we visited there before things got so bad. Although I noticed a lot of trash when we were there in 2005, I did not realize what terrible polluters Brazilians are. They pump their raw sewage directly into the rivers and ocean. They have no regard to egosystems and seem intent on ruining the paradise they were lucky enough to live in. The poor have no chance. We asked our Brazilian friends why things weren't better with all the gre Brazil seems to be in the news all the time lately. I am glad that we visited there before things got so bad. Although I noticed a lot of trash when we were there in 2005, I did not realize what terrible polluters Brazilians are. They pump their raw sewage directly into the rivers and ocean. They have no regard to egosystems and seem intent on ruining the paradise they were lucky enough to live in. The poor have no chance. We asked our Brazilian friends why things weren't better with all the great landscape, natural beauty and resources like oil and minerals. Their one-word reply was "Corruption." This book certainly supports that answer.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Juliana Barbassa, who was born in Brazil, returned to Rio de Janeiro as the AP's Rio correspondent. She gives a very detailed history of Rio and it's current state as it readies for the 2016 Olympic Games. Her well-presented book clearly illustrates that the paradox of Rio isn’t simply between the beautiful beaches and the favelas (slums) but rather between political corruption, criminal gangs, rampant construction and an ever-increasing population of Brazilians migrating to the city in search o Juliana Barbassa, who was born in Brazil, returned to Rio de Janeiro as the AP's Rio correspondent. She gives a very detailed history of Rio and it's current state as it readies for the 2016 Olympic Games. Her well-presented book clearly illustrates that the paradox of Rio isn’t simply between the beautiful beaches and the favelas (slums) but rather between political corruption, criminal gangs, rampant construction and an ever-increasing population of Brazilians migrating to the city in search of a better life. It’s an uncompromising picture Barbassa paints and whether the city will get through the Olympics unscathed is pretty much an open question based on this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rock

    The series of journalistic vignettes that comprise this book are more cohesive than most of its ilk, a testament to the authors' penchant for analysis. This trait is a gift to readers as she uses it to paint a broad but detailed portrait of this complex city. She's not as good at rendering internal motivations and conflicts, however, and this weakness holds back the success of the otherwise-interesting autobiographical thread that runs through this book. Overall, it's worth a read for anyone int The series of journalistic vignettes that comprise this book are more cohesive than most of its ilk, a testament to the authors' penchant for analysis. This trait is a gift to readers as she uses it to paint a broad but detailed portrait of this complex city. She's not as good at rendering internal motivations and conflicts, however, and this weakness holds back the success of the otherwise-interesting autobiographical thread that runs through this book. Overall, it's worth a read for anyone interested in Rio, Latin America, or third-world urban issues, or just looking for a literary vacation.

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