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Crooked Plow: Translating Social Justice in Brazil

General Programming

dateOctober 5, 2023 timeThursday, 6:15pm EDT location Faculty House, Seminar Level (2nd Floor), Columbia University
  • Department of History
  • Heyman Center Fellows
  • Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro
  • Columbia Law School
  • Institute of Latin American Studies
  • University Seminar on Public Humanities: Expanding Scholarship and Pedagogy
  • Public Humanities
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
  • Signed books will be available for purchase at the event.

Join us for a discussion of Brazilian author Itamar Vieira Junior’s best-selling novel Crooked Plow, now available in English. Vieira Junior will be in conversation with feminist anthropologist and political activist Keisha-Khan Perry and poet and Crooked Plow translator Johnny Lorenz to explore literary writing, social justice work, and the long shadow that slavery casts. They will collectively consider how profoundly local textures of daily life and historical memory can resonate beyond the places that inspired them.

About the Book

Deep in Brazil's neglected Bahia hinterland, two sisters find an ancient knife beneath their grandmother's bed and, momentarily mystified by its power, decide to taste its metal. The shuddering violence that follows marks their lives and binds them together forever. This fascinating and gripping story about the lives of subsistence farmers in Brazil's poorest region, three generations after the abolition of slavery, is at once fantastic and realist, covering themes of family, spirituality, slavery and its aftermath and political struggle.

Crooked Plow has been heralded as the most important Brazilian novel of the century so far, and Vieira Junior was profiled by The New York Times in early 2022; "Black Authors Shake Up Brazil’s Literary Scene." Translated by Johnny Lorenz in June 2023, Crooked Plow has been praised as “[an] engrossing story [that] gives visibility to many who have traditionally been marginalized,” (Washington Post), “an impressive first novel by an important literary voice” (Financial Times), and “a compelling vision of history's downtrodden and neglected” (New York Times Book Review).


Itamar Vieira Junior was born in Salvador, Bahia, in 1979. He is a writer and geographer and has a PhD in Ethnic African Studies from UFBA, the Federal University of Bahia. In October 2018, he won Portugal’s Leya Prize for Crooked Plow. He was also a finalist for Brazil’s Jabuti Prize for his book of short stories, The Executioner’s Prayer, published with a grant from Bahia’s Secretary of Culture. That book won the 2016-2017 Humberto de Campos Prize from the Brazilian Writers’ Alliance (Rio de Janeiro section), and second place in the 2018 Bunkyo Literature Prize, awarded by the Brazilian Society for Japanese Culture and Social Assistance. His first book of short stories, Dias (Caramurê, 2012), was the winner of the Prémio Arte e Cultura (Literatura – 2012). He is a columnist for the São Paulo Review.

Johnny Lorenz, son of Brazilian immigrants to the United States, is an associate professor at Montclair State University. In 2013, he was a finalist for Best Translated Book for his translation of A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector (New Directions). His book of original poems, Education by Windows, was published in 2018 by Poets & Traitors Press; it includes his translations of the poet Mario Quintana, for which he received a Fulbright grant. He has published articles on Brazilian literature in journals such as Luso-Brazilian Review and Modern Fiction Studies. He is also the translator of Lispector's The Besieged City (New Directions).

Keisha-Khan Perry’s research focuses on urban social movements against the violence of forced displacement. A feminist anthropologist and political activist, she is the author of the prize-winning book, Black Women against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil, an ethnographic account of Black women’s activism for housing and land rights in the northeastern Brazilian city of Salvador. With a geographic emphasis on the United States, Jamaica, and Brazil, she continues to write on issues of Black land ownership and loss and the related gendered racial logics of Black dispossession in the African diaspora. She has served on the Latin American Studies Association delegation to investigate the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, participates on a team of 16 researchers for the National Science Foundation Grant “Research Coordination Network: Housing Justice in Unequal Cities,” and serves on the board of the Washington Brazil Office.

Co-Sponsored by the University Seminar on Public Humanities: Expanding Scholarship and Pedagogy