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  • Lula and His Politics of Cunning: From Metalworker to President of Brazil by John D. French
  • Jamie L. Worms
John D. French Lula and His Politics of Cunning: From Metalworker to President of Brazil. Place of Publication: The University of North Carolina Press, 2020. DXX + 508 pp. Maps, diagrams, tables, ills., notes, appendices, references, index. $28.94 paper (ISBN); $00.00 cloth (ISBN); $00.00 electronic (ISBN).

This book tells the story of luiz Inácio da Silva and how his humble beginnings and family structure were the un likely reasons he rose through the ranks in his unique political career. John D. French, professor of history at Duke University, advances [End Page 193] the claim that Lula was part of a "working class intelligentsia" (p. 4) or vanguard during the 1970s in São Paulo which successfully unified the metalworking industry and charismatically navigated their confrontations with the educated, authoritarian elite. Relying heavily on several sources, French carves out space in the cannon for his own version of Lula's life as explained through the interpersonal relationships Lula maintained with others. French divides the book into three parts I) Origins and Roots, II) From Luiz Inácio into Lula, and III) Lula, the Peons of ABC, and the Pursuit of the Presidency. This book is incredibly well researched but is lengthy, and at times, uses inaccessible vocabulary in English, and at the strangest of times without translation in Portuguese, to detail the life and career trajectory of Luiz Inácio da Silva, the former, and still very well loved, President of Brazil.

By using several books, films, and biopics, French fills Part I with dichotomies to explain Lula's unlikely circumstances. French retells the rich personal histories of Lula and his family and their somewhat unexpected migration from the rural Northeast of Brazil to São Paulo. Despite Lula's tumultuous and violent childhood, his familial structure and position as the youngest child allowed him the opportunity to study while his older family members worked. After completing the fourth grade, Lula also began working in the metal factories in São Paulo's ABC district, akin to the manufacturing belt in the United States. French explains that Lula's situation of being a "poor and working-class youth" (p. 67) amid a rapidly industrializing, heterogenous city is what set him on a path to the presidency and beyond.

One of the strongest dichotomies that French repeats across chapters is the comparison between Lula "the good boy" and his brother Frei Chico "the rebel". French brilliantly uses the differences between these brothers to explain the divergent political beliefs held by Brazilians of different social classes during this period of rapid industrialization. After defying several odds, Lula graduated from a multi-year trade-school apprenticeship program in 1963, SENAI (Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Industrial) to become a skilled machinist thus advancing his earning power and social status. While Lula initially shied away from politics, his "rebel" brother Frei Chico, who was an unskilled, rank-and-file worker, already understood the need for union representation and defense. It was only after Frei Chico was kidnapped and tortured by the military dictatorship that Lula decided to run, unopposed, for union President. Despite the risks and dangers that came with organizing an opposition of workers against the Brazilian military regime, French explains that it was Lula's personal experiences that made his reluctant political presence necessary and surprisingly effective.

In Part II, French uses the relationships between Lula, his wives, and his brother, to provide testament to his redefining character. French begins by shedding "new light on how in 1971 the twenty-six-year-old expectant father became a grieving widow" (p. 163). French interprets and explains that Lula's "subsequent womanizing" after the death of his pregnant wife, was a product of the "the masculine sphere of working-class sociability" [End Page 194] (p. 163). In a way, this traumatic experience, and Lula's typical gender and class reaction to it, reminds us that he is just like everyone else. Lula had seen his "unfair share of pain, shame, and humiliation, feelings accompanied mostly by resignation, demobilizing anger, and...