A Hero for the People: Stories of the Brazilian Backlands, by Arthur Powers, is a book I stumbled upon.


I didn’t expect it to be good, much less at the “write to the author and ask for an interview” level. I didn’t expect much from it.

I found myself, about a third of the way through the book, checking to see if it was a memoir or a collection of stories. For me, this speaks to a few things.

First, it was so well-written that, as fiction, it seemed real. As in, “pinch me, I’m riding shotgun across Brazil” real.

Second, I’m not a big fan of most memoirs (but yes, I love a good story, so there’s that). The fact that I was LIKING this even though I thought it was a memoir (or I wasn’t sure) was a big thumbs up for the writing and storytelling.

I always forget how much I enjoy collections of stories. They’re like assorted hard candies…if you don’t like one, it’s not such a big deal because there’s a good one coming up soon. In this bag of stories, though, there weren’t any bad ones.

Each story in this is crafted and fine-tuned. They leave you satisfied and yet wanting more.

There’s an adventure and, within that, a deeper theme. You almost get the sense that you’re traveling along through Brazil’s backlands, and that the people there, while delightfully unique, aren’t so different from you. There’s a taste to this book that made me look up Powers’s other work.

Dare I say this is literature? Maybe. At the very least, it’s a book I really, really, REALLY enjoyed, with a wow on top.