Reviews of Paulo Freire's Books

This website, dedicated to Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997), consists of a collection of reviews of his books and links to other pages on Freire. The books are listed in chronological order. When the book has been translated into English, the first date refers to the original publication. 

The website was created by Daniel Schugurensky, Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).

Freire, Paulo (1996). Letters to Cristina: Reflections on My Life and Work. New York and London: Routledge.

J.A.S., review of Letters to Cristina: Reflections on My Life and Work, by Paulo Freire (1996). Harvard Educational Review, 67:2 (Summer 1997), pp. 369.370. Copyright (c) 1997 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.

In Letters to Cristina, Paulo Freire guides educators through a genealogical re-tracing of his intellectual restlessness, curiosity, and revolutionary spirit. In his letters to his niece, Cristina, he sets in motion an irreversible process of disquieting that compels us to see ourselves as historical agents engaged in "the search for a voice and the rebelliousness that must become more critically revolutionary" (p. 87). As Freire says, "For me to return to my distant childhood is a necessary act of curiosity" (p. 13).

Through his Letters, Freire does not merely imagine a world where education is an act of freedom, he shares with us a myriad of contradictions with which an educator of action must necessarily and tirelessly grapple. By revisiting his childhood, Freire provides us with an intimate portrait of the organic growth of an educator who has committed the greater part of his life and work to the liberation of the oppressed and their oppressors:

    In reminiscing about his childhood which Paulo exposes in the most intimate way, describing its most difficult moments he did not idealize or romanticize those days. He described them because those were the years that fed the critical thought of his adulthood. (p. 192)

Throughout these eighteen letters, Freire reminds us of the importance our memories play in revisiting, reconstructing, and re-critiquing our actions, past and present, so as to enable us to generate and sustain liberating memories as agents of change. Freire presents an intimate portrait of the trajectory and evolution of his non-neutral, socialist, political-pedagogical project of conscientization, through his letters. As Ana Maria Araťjo Freire, his wife, masterfully crystallizes in the "Notes" section that accompanies Freire's letters:

The close relationship of these letters to Paulo's life did not reduce them to subjective texts, but rather charged them heavily with subjectivity; they translate real moments of the objectivity of Brazilian history, a history that he participated in as a subject. (p. 192)

It is through his Letters that Freire knits memories of his childhood and adult struggles with a view towards the struggle for a world of compassionate, critical, liberatory pedagogy. Through the use of his life's stories, Freire recounts the complexities of his coming to consciousness. Ana Maria Freire again puts it best when she says that:

Through letters it was easier and more profound for Paulo to analyze Brazil's many problems metaphorically, using Lourdes's piano, his father's neckties, "Mr." Armada's ruthlessness, the cloth pads on the heads of the piano movers, the calungas of the trucks, the soldiers of the handkerchief gang . . . and many other instances. Using these images to talk about the experiences and frustrated dreams of the people, Paulo talks about the most distinct facets of Brazilian reality: the lack of hope; the presence of oppression, authoritarianism, exploitation, and domination; the dreams of what is possible, the striking social differences; the deficiencies of education and the schools; the poverty, hunger, unemployment; and, finally, the deprivation of the many and the opulence of the few. (p. 192)

The immediacy of the issues that Freire writes about in his Letters resonate today with the same clarity, strength of conviction, and force as they did in Pedagogy of the Oppressed and in his Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. His Letters are an open invitation to all educators to deepen our convictions for a pedagogy for liberation, and to broaden our conceptions of how we can address ourselves and those with whom we struggle. His words strengthen and revivify our resolve and our humility toward a critical pedagogy grounded in action.

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