Life and Death of a Minke Whale in the Amazon: Dispatches from the Brazilian Rainforest

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UPC: 9781571311818
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Authors: Fábio Zuker (Author), Ezra Fitz (Translator)
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Milkweed Editions (June 7, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 240 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1571311815
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1571311818
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches


As the Amazon burns, Fábio Zuker shares stories of resistance, self-determination, and kinship with the land.

In 2007, a seven-ton minke whale was found stranded on the banks of the Tapajós River, hundreds of miles into the Amazon rainforest. For days, environmentalists, journalists, and locals followed the lost whale, hoping to guide her back to the ocean, but ultimately proved unable to save her. Ten years later, journalist Fábio Zuker travels to the state of Pará, to the town known as “the place where the whale appeared,” which developers are now eyeing for mining, timber, and soybean cultivation.

In these essays, Zuker shares intimate stories of life in the rainforest and its surrounding cities during an age of raging wildfires, mass migration, populist politics, and increasing deforestation. As a group of Venezuelan migrants wait at a bus station in Manaus, looking for a place more stable than home, an elder in Alter do Chão becomes the first Indigenous person in Brazil to die from COVID-19 after years of fighting for the rights and recognition of the Borari people.
The subjects Zuker interviews are often torn between ties with their ancestral territories and the push for capitalist gain; 
The Life and Death of a Minke Whale in the Amazon captures the friction between their worlds and the resilience of movements for autonomy, self-definition, and respect for the land that nourishes us.



Praise for The Life and Death of a Minke Whale in the Amazon
A Book Riot “Must-Read Book in Translation for 2022”

“Zuker combines hard-hitting reportage with stories that veer from hopeful to elegiac, and his takes on his subjects’ relationship with the rainforest are spot-on and direct . . . This one deserves wide readership.”Publishers Weekly

“Thanks to Zuker’s essays, neglected voices from a remote part of the world receive much-needed attention . . . Recommended for anyone seeking to better understand the often overlooked world of Indigenous Amazonians.”Kirkus Reviews

"In poignant, lyrical, even fable-like essays written primarily from the perspectives of Indigenous people, Brazilian journalist Zuker chronicles the destruction of the Amazon rainforest . . . Zuker presents an in-depth depiction of massive environmental and social decimation conveying urgently needed information and insights."Booklist

“With Zuker, the language, the thoughtful observation, and the work of witnessing this profound time of alteration never falters. In his prose, in his conclusions, and with his keen eye, he allows us to know him in the areas of his expertise, and in the areas of his displacement and wandering. While he does not over-identify with the people he documents, neither does he set himself apart from the world in which they find themselves.” —Eiren Caffall, Los Angeles Review of Books

"These are astute and vivid dispatches from a part of the world, and a viewpoint that most Americans know far too little about—and that plays an absolutely critical role in the planet's future." —Bill McKibben, author of The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon

“This unique view of Brazil’s precious, precarious rain forest shimmers with passion and an intimate understanding of ‘the friction between two worlds, between two ways of relating to the land.’”Foreword Reviews

"In this collection of linked essays, Fábio Zuker gathers together the voices of those long left out of the official conversations around what the Amazon was, is, and ought to be. By listening to ordinary people and recounting their tales, he invites us to eavesdrop on an extraordinary conversation unfolding between this place and those who call it home." —Elizabeth Rush, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

"This collection of essays by Fábio Zuker is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the challenges and dangers facing the Amazon region and its Indigenous peoples. Zuker has the infallibly keen eye of a world-class journalist. His prose flows like water from one chapter to the next as he tracks harsh realities, like the death of a river, beside the wonderful astonishment of finding a whale in the most unexpected of places. If you get caught in his net, you won't regret it." —Jorge Ramos, author of Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era

"Heartbreaking and necessary, these essays embody the struggles of Indigenous peoples respecting their past and fighting for their present, while exploring the long-reaching and deadly impacts that greed—and the forces of evil that supply greed—have on the world and on people in Brazil in particular." —BrocheAroe Fabian, River Dog Book Co. 

“In the midst of this crossfire that’s ravaging the forest, with a far-right government churning out more fake news every minute and manipulating the truth about the burning Amazon rainforest, it’s essential to highlight the ethical concern that permeates the writing of these essays: writing that isn’t about something or with something, but is, as the Vietnamese filmmaker and thinker Trinh T. Minh-ha puts it, near to it.”Le Monde Diplomatique-Brasil

About the Author

Fábio Zuker is the author of The Life and Death of a Minke Whale in the Amazon. A writer and journalist, he holds a master’s degree from the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris and is a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of São Paulo. He has also been three times a Pulitzer Center grantee. As a journalist he is a frequent contributor to Thomson Reuters Foundation and InfoAmazonia who has written for National Geographic, Revista Piauí, Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil, Agência Pública, and Nexo Jornal, among others. He is also the author of On an Escape Route: Essays on Writing, Fear, and Violence (Hedra Editions, only available in Portuguese). In recent years he has focused his research on stories of the Amazon rainforest, looking to write “nearby” the people whose land is being destroyed and their approaches to resistance.

Ezra E. Fitz is the translator of The Life and Death of a Minke Whale in the Amazon. He has worked with Grammy-winning musician Juanes, Emmy-winning journalist Jorge Ramos, and the king of soccer himself, Pelé. His translations of contemporary Latin American literature by Alberto Fuguet, Eloy Urroz, and others have been praised by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and The Believer, among other publications. Fitz has been awarded grants from the Mexican National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA). He was a 2010 Resident at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre and a 2019 Peter Taylor Fellow with the Kenyon Review Literary Translation Workshop. He lives with his wife and children in Spring Hill, Tennessee.