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and Lourenço are brothers. Their father is black, a famed forensic pathologist
for the police; their mother is white. Federico – distant, angry, analytical –
has light skin, which means he’s always been able to avoid the worst of the
racism that Brazilian culture has to offer. He can ‘pass’ as white, and yet,
because of this, he has devoted his life to racial justice. Lourenço, on the
other hand, is dark-skinned, easy-going, and well-liked in the brothers’
hometown of Porto Alegre – and has become a father himself.
Federico’s fiftieth birthday looms, he joins a governmental committee in the
capital. It is tasked with quelling the increasingly violent student protests
rocking Brazil by overseeing the design of a software program that will
adjudicate the degree to which each university applicant is sufficiently black
to warrant admittance under new affirmative-action quotas. Before he can come
to grips with his feelings about this initiative, not to mention a budding
romance with one of his committee colleagues, Federico is called home: his
niece has just been arrested at a protest carrying a concealed gun. And not
just any gun. A stolen police service revolver that Federico and Lourenço hid
for a friend decades before. A gun used in a killing.
here probes the old wounds of race in Brazil, and in particular the loss of a
black identity independent from the history of slavery. Exploratory rather than
didactic, a story of crime, street-life and regret as much as a satirical novel
of ideas, Phenotypes is a seething masterpiece of rage and