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With a red suitcase and a rug, the ‘German bookseller’ spread culture throughout the community



São Paulo – “Saved by a book”, as the writer Otávio Junior, known as the “German bookseller,” also “saves” people through his works. His last children’s book, From My Window, from 2019, for example, is capable of transmitting empathy, creating an observer sense in children and bringing representativeness to their community.

Otávio’s nickname is a reference to the Ler É 10 – Leia Favela project, which he created in Morro do Alemão, in the northern zone of Rio de Janeiro. Responsible for stimulating literature in the favela, the writer thanks the mission, capable of creating other perspectives on the region. “I can take the name of the community to the pages of newspapers in a light and positive way. The Complexo do Alemão has always been placed on the police pages, so I go against that ”, he highlights.

Actor, theatrical producer and storyteller, Otávio Júnior says that his love for literature started early, as early as 8 years old. While walking around the neighborhood’s soccer field, he decided to dig through a pile of nearby rubbish and found a book: a translation of Spanish history Don Gatón.

The unusual object in that place drew attention, he says. “Toys were part of my life, but books were not. At first, literature was an entertainment tool and, when I started going to the school library, I started to have more contact with books ”, he recalls.

After a long period, but still young, Otávio decided to transmit his love for literature to the community. He took a red suitcase, filled it with books, used a borrowed rug and went walking through the slums of the region. The Itinerant Project emerged, offering “storytelling”, guessing games, literary performances.

“I used dance and sports spaces, set up libraries, and I was always welcomed by educators and parents. So, that’s when I decided to open a ‘barracoteca’, which was fixed, but also visited other places ”, he says.

‘Da Minha Janela’: written by Otávio and illustrated by Argentine Vanina Starkoff, the work won the Jabuti Award for children in 2019 (Reproduction)

Books and German

The favela has always been Otávio Junior’s main source of inspiration and dialogue. In 2011, the writer published his first work, The German Bookseller, which narrates its trajectory. In 2013, it gave life to the work The Boy in the Red Shirt, which brings the story of Julinho, addressing issues such as housing conditions, infrastructure and social inequality.

The following year, Otávio was launched The Big Boss Lá do Morro, a work that mixes poverty, violence and fear with naivete and hope. “At the same time, I show the problems and also make room for reflection. The people who live there can connect and feel represented ”, he says, about the importance of addressing the periphery beyond the stigmas.

Your last job, From My Window, illustrated by Argentine Vanina Starkoff, was the winner of the children’s category of the Jabuti Award in 2019. Otávio says that, by transforming real community moments into literature, the work is an invitation for readers to get to know the multiple universe of the favela.

With the power to create a narrative line from the window itself, Otávio believes that showing readers that, inside the house, there is a large observation portal, either about their territory or their people. “From this detailed observation, you can propose collective changes and transformations. The book connects with a magic to empower the reader and place him as a power, so that the observer is a purposeful agent. ”

Transformation through art

The community influences the way of looking at the world and taking root. Therefore, the universality of the window, according to the author, can create points of reflection, regardless of the region. He remembers, for example, a conversation with a resident of Porto Alegre, who felt represented by the book.

“People who send me messages say that the window has become a connection point. The book is about the favela, but people manage to create their own universes, through their own windows. I recently had a conversation with a young man from the Porto Alegre favela and his reports were emotional. He started to tell what he was observing and I could see the nationalization and power of this book, which was produced in the favela and reflects the favela ”, he celebrates.

Deciphering peripheral codes and languages ​​and reverting to literature makes Otávio Junior a storyteller capable of experimentation in his creation. Through the book From My Window, he believes it is possible to awaken empathy in the reader.

“Literature was part of my personal development. My empathy was born when I started to share my art with people, making my stories public. I am grateful to literature for providing this and developing my empathy, being able to put myself in the other’s place, with other stories ”, he reports. “I, as an author, can provide the other with an enchantment”, he concludes.

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