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Two girls—an heiress and a servant—discover love and fame in this evocative tale of friendship, betrayal, and samba set in midcentury Rio de Janeiro.
As a child, my life was full of uncertainty, and expressing myself through art was one of the things that made me feel most alive. I remember listening to Kaoma’s “La Lambada” as a kid, and feeling excited by the way it connected familiar melodies with sounds that were entirely new. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but to me those sounds represented the connectivity between human beings. They...
Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.
One has a voice l...
Get an early look from the first pages of Frances de Pontes Peebles's The Air You Breathe.Read a sample →
Time is short and the water is rising.
This is what one of Sofia Salvador’s directors—I can’t recall his name—used to shout before he’d start filming. Each time he said it, I imagined all of us in a fishbowl, our hands sliding frantically along the glass sides as water crept above our necks, our noses, our eyes.
I fall asleep listening to our old records and wake with my mouth dry, my tongue as rough as a cat’s. I pull the handle of my La‐Z‐Boy and, with a jolt, am sitting upright. A pile of photos rests in my lap.
I own the most famous photograph of Sofia Salvador—the Brazilian Bombshell, the Fruity Cutie Girl, the fast-talking, eye-popping nymph with her glittering costumes and pixie-cut hair who, depending on your age and nationality, is either a joke, an icon of camp, a victim, a traitor, a great innovator, or even, as one researcher anointed her, “an object of serious study of Hollywood’s Latinas.” (Is that what they’re calling us now?) I bought the original photo and its negative at auction, paying much more than they were worth. Money isn’t an issue for me these days; I’m filthy rich and am not ashamed to say so. When I was young, musicians had to pretend that success and money didn’t matter. Ambition, in a sambista and especially in a woman, was seen as an unforgivable fault.
In the photo, taken in 1942, Sofia Salvador wears the pixie cut she made famous. Her eyes are wide. Her lips are parted. Her tongue flicks the roof of her mouth; it is unclear if she is singing or screaming. Earrings made to resemble life-sized hummingbirds—their jeweled eyes glinting, their golden beaks sharp—dangle from her ears. She was vain about her lobes, worried they would sag under the weight of her array of earrings …