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Decade-Long Process Ends in First Book for Daniels

November 1, 2023
Jennie Daniels

For Dr. Jennie Daniels, the idea came about while finishing her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of California – San Diego. An idea, a slight variant to her research on literature and film of post -dictatorship Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

Ten years later, the idea is Daniels’ first book, “Anything but Novel: Pushing the Margins in Latin American Post-Utopian Historical Narrative.” It was published this fall by the University of Alabama Press. The book examines four different historical novels from different South American countries: Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, and Chile.

“They all deal with foundational social issues in their nation and look at those through a historical lens,” she explained. “But they also connect those issues to similar issues that continue to exist in their nations in their day (of being written).”

One of the novels she examined for her book, Rubem Fonseca’s 1994 story, “O selvagem da ópera” (Savage of the Opera), tackled the story of ongoing racism in Brazil through the story of a Latin American opera composer who moved to Europe to pursue his career.

“At the time of publication, in the 90s, Brazil touted itself as a racial democracy. There’s no racism in Brazil or it is not the same as it is in the U.S.,” Daniels said of Fonseca’s book. “If you look at it statistically, life expectancy and standard of living among people of different skin tones, it’s definitely not a racial democracy.”

Daniels says the book is primarily an academic text and she may use all (or parts) of it in her own classes in the future. The book offers threads of hope, as each of the four authors whose writings are explored in “Anything but Novel” offer the opportunity to address the social issues being brought to light.

“It was wonderful,” Daniels said of the experience. “I was really excited to be able to work through the process.”

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