Mr. Rohter enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame after President Lula illegal and clumsy attempt to expel him from Brazil for reporting in the New York Times about Lula's abuse with alcohol. So I ran to the library to get Deu no New York Times (O Brasil segundo a otica de um reporter do jornal mais influente do mundo), published in Brazil (no English edition available). I liked the book so much, and after so many recent headlines (just check the latest issues of The Economist) about Brazil successful agribusiness model and how it has achieved sustainable energy independence (sugarcane ethanol makes up 50% of the gasoline market + the recent discovery of huge off shore deposits of gas and oil), I also rushed to buy this book.
Chapter 1, Brazil's history in a nutshell, and chapters 6 through 10 are a must read for anyone interested in understanding the Brazilian economic miracle. Five stars! Unfortunately, chapters 2 and 3, which by the way are completely out of context for a book dealing with "Brazil on the Rise", present a biased view of Brazil, with unfair generalizations and passing judgment based on his moral and religious view of the world. And chapter 2 in particular is written through the lenses of his apparent tight Protestant beliefs as he unnecessarily passes moral judgment on Brazilian sexuality and sexual preferences as viewed by him and supported just by anecdotes. The comparison Mr. Rohter makes in Chapter 4 about Brazilian soccer players treatment of the ball as if it was a woman in just delirious, I just could not stop laughing at such ridiculous metaphor (by the way, if you watch soccer games you should have known that European players and from a lot of nationalities too often kiss the ball too after scoring, including Americans). Those chapters only deserve one star hence resulting in my three star rating. Chapter 5 deals with Brazilian music and arts in general, and despite being excellent, Mr. Rohter really shows up his mastery of this subject, it is out of context for a book on economic development. Brazil on the Rise is actually two separate books published as one.
As Mr. Rohter, I am a gringo (foreigner) who has worked all over Brazil for the last ten years and actually lived over there for four years, and like him, also married a Brazilian, so I do not have the bias of a nationalistic view of Brazil, nor I am not offended by some of Mr. Rohter's moral outbursts and undeserved criticism (as rightly most Brazilians will). The book demonstrates he really knows Brazilian culture (a couple of blunders apart), but in those hapless chapters he not also shows his Anglo-Saxon bias but also displays the typical carioca (inhabitant of Rio de Janeiro) shortsighted view of the rest of Brazil, which is much more than Rio, Bahia and Brasilia (the chapter covering beach and carnival actually refers almost exclusively to Rio de Janeiro). Not a word in the book about the cultural features of Curitiba, or the states of Sao Paulo, Parana and Santa Catarina, nor anything about the southern region in general, which together with Sao Paulo state is quite an economic model for other Latin American countries, and also has a different culture and idiosyncrasy not found anywhere in the book. The existing country's inequality is a sad fact, but it is mainly related to poverty, lack of opportunities for a decent education, no matter the color of your skin. Also, some of the idiosyncratic features he harshly criticized are shared by most Latin American countries (Roman Catholic heritage). I wonder if Mr. Rohter has ever spent enough time in any of those other countries so that he can tell the differences and similarities.
So, shame on him, a New York Times journalist should have known better. Bringing back old fashion religious prejudices and comparing racism in the U.S with Brazil is not what you expect from someone with his experience and cultural baggage. Those unfair chapters based on his personal biases just serve to reinforce the good old stereotype about American gringos in Latin America. He should have stayed on the book's main subject or instead write two separate books. Nevertheless, I believe Mr. Rohter did an excellent job in chapters 6 through 10 and delivered what he promised in the book's title, how Brazil was able to achieve such progress in agribusiness, sustainable energy and energy independence (chapters 6 and 7), its controversial stewardship of the Amazon (chapter 8), and how "the country of the future" finally seems to be getting there and Brazil aspirations in the global stage (chapter 9 and 10).
For a broader analysis of the Brazilian economy and its political history (that Mr Rohter deals in just two chapters) I do recommend The New Brazil, also published in 2010. Its style is more academic like, but readable for the general public and without cultural biases or moral judgement, just stays in the policies and the economics, and its historic evolution. Nevertheless, Rohter's short explanation behind Brazil's spectacular take off is much more detailed, while "The New Brazil" just looks at it from the macroeconomic point of view.