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  • Exile within Exiles: Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary by James N. Green
Green, James N. Exile within Exiles: Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary. Durham: Duke UP, 2018. 334 pp.

Herbert Daniel was a gay Brazilian revolutionary, and in his life these three aspects of his identity—his sexuality, his citizenship, and his activism—informed one another. Daniel was a revolutionary in many senses of the word. He dedicated his young adulthood to the pursuit of a communist revolution, first as a student organizer and educator of Marxist and other political economic theory, and eventually trained with Carlos Lamarca. He even became part of the leadership of the Vanguarda Popular Revolucionária in the armed struggle against the Brazilian dictatorship (1964–1985). After narrowly escaping arrest, Daniel went into exile in Europe. There he was able to finally embrace his homosexuality, which he had repressed during his years living underground in Brazil. After coming out, Daniel assumed a role as a public intellectual in Paris where he was involved in the struggle for LGBTQ rights and continued to speak out against the Brazilian dictatorship.

Daniel had to fight for the right to return to Brazil as he did not qualify for amnesty under the 1979 law and was even dubbed "the last exile." Once he returned to Rio he became heavily involved in both the Workers' Party (PT) and the Green Party during the transition to democracy, even running for office himself. He fought for a more just and free Brazilian society in general and championed the rights of minorities, specifically linking the LGBTQ rights movement to the plights of Afro-Brazilians, women, indigenous people, and even the environment at a time when many in the Brazilian Left wanted to seize power first and then deal with the rights of minorities after. For Daniel, no leftist victory or revolution was possible without prioritizing the rights of the most vulnerable groups and his campaign platform reflected this.

Daniel also became an advocate for people living with HIV and AIDS. He was a pioneer in HIV/AIDS activism and wrote numerous articles educating the public about the virus and fighting for the rights of seropositive Brazilians to live with dignity and to enjoy the full expression of their rights at a time when the government used scare tactics and propaganda which further stigmatized people living with HIV and AIDS. When Daniel was diagnosed with AIDS himself in 1989, he doubled down on his political organizing and activist work and became one of the first Brazilian public figures to speak and write openly about living with AIDS to show that there was indeed life after a positive diagnosis. He started the Grupo pela Valorização, Integração e Dignidade do Doente de AIDS (Grupo pela VIDDA) to call for an appropriate response to AIDS and to advocate for people living with HIV and AIDS. He even began a presidential campaign on the Green Party ticket that he could not realize due to his waning health. He continued to write and organize until his death from complications related to AIDS in 1992. [End Page E6]

Exile within Exiles: Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary is the "recuperative biography" of Herbert Daniel (Green 5). Over the course of an introduction, 17 chapters, and an epilogue, James N. Green masterfully constructs a narrative of Daniel's life full of tensions and releases, which make the text compelling, suspenseful, and a pleasure to read. Despite the numerous holes and lack of information about the details of Daniel's life, especially during the years in which he was underground, Green's historical investigation enables him to reconstruct much of his life to paint a multidimensional picture of Daniel, who robbed banks, waxed poetic about film, and giggled at seemingly trivial comics with his fellow revolutionaries all while repressing his sexuality and assuming a painful celibacy throughout his young adulthood as he grew into a prolific writer and fierce activist for LGBTQ rights. The narrative sways back and forth between the details of Daniel's life story and more general historical information about what was happening around him, resulting in a balanced and robust text. Readers learn not only about Herbert Daniel, the individual, but also about the inner-workings of the student movement in Belo Horizonte in response to the dictatorship, the collaborations and ruptures of different factions of the armed struggle, Lamarca's guerrilla training camp and his demise, the early LGBTQ rights movements in France and in Brazil, and Brazil's response to the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. Green personally interviewed everyone from Daniel's mother to former president Dilma Rousseff. Indeed, his interviewee list reads like a who's who of Brazilian politics, culture, and academe in part because this was Herbert Daniel's social circle.

In the "Introduction," Green describes his personal connection to the project and to Herbert Daniel, explaining that both men fought in the same struggles, first against the dictatorship and then as foundational figures in the LGBTQ movement in Brazil as the country transitioned to democracy. Green makes a strong case for his project, positing that through Daniel's biography, "[. . .]we can learn much about the complexities of Brazilian politics, society, and culture; the nature of the Brazilian Left as it changed over time; and the constraints and options of those with nonnormative sexuality who lived during the second half of the twentieth century" (6). Undeniably, Exile within Exiles is an important contribution for scholars interested in the Brazilian dictatorship, the issue of amnesty and transitional justice, LGBTQ studies, and advocacy for those living with HIV and AIDS in a Brazilian context. Because it is written in English, this book is excellent for scholars of world or comparative studies in any of the aforementioned fields, as well as academics who focus on leftist philosophies, exile, LGBTQ history, and public health. At a time when much of the progress of the Brazilian Left is under threat and minority rights are being eroded, Exile within Exiles serves as a timely inspiration to continue the struggle against repressive regimes in Brazil and elsewhere. [End Page E7]

Kristal Bivona
University of California, Los Angeles
kristalbivona@ucla.edu

Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9957
Print ISSN
0024-7413
Pages
E6-E7
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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