Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Book Review and Give-Away

on July 21, 2011

Dance Lest We All Fall Down, by Margaret Wilson–Book Review and Give-Away

I don’t usually review books on this blog, but I’m going to start a new trend. Every month, I will review one book that, in some way, speaks to people who are making a difference in their communities or the world. The books reviewed might be a fiction book with a character making a difference, a children’s book (middle grade, picture book, non-fiction, or young adult), a memoir, or non-fiction.  After the review, each person who comments on the book review blog posting will have an opportunity to have their name entered in a drawing in which the book that I reviewed will be given away. (U.S mailing addresses only). The drawing will take place a week following the review post and you must post a comment which addresses why you want to read this book and how you will pass it on. The passing on of the book may take many forms–you might blog about it, post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Library Thing, share the book with a friend, or suggest it for a book group, or whatever other creative way you can think of to pass the book on after you are finished.

This month’s book is Dance Lest We All Fall Down: Breaking the Cycles of Poverty in Brazil and Beyond, written by Margaret  Willson, and published by the University of Washington Press, 2010.

The drawing for this month’s book will take place on Friday, July 30, 2011.

Dance Lest We All Fall Down is the story of how Margaret Willson, an American anthropologist and her African Brazilian colleague created, Bahia Street, a NGO that provides education, healthcare, food, and counseling for girls from the slums of Salvador.

I first saw this book on a display at Third Place Books. It was around Christmas, and I added the book to my wish list and received it as a gift. This past winter, I was working on drafting my memoir about running the poetry workshop with the kids in detention. As a part of that drafting, I was reading a lot of memoirs.  Dance Lest We All Fall Down is not a memoir, and Margaret Willson says in her afterward, “…this book does not fit neatly into a genre. It is neither a memoir nor a story of a derring-do. It is certainly not a hero’s tale of a white American “savior” single-handedly changing the world. It is a testament to the power of change, an account of the voices of others, their knowledge, their truth, and their perspective on their own communities.”

She goes on to say that the book was not immediately embraced by mainstream publishers, and they chose to self-publish the book because they felt the story was important. Apparently, so did editor Lorri Hagman and The University of Washington Press who picked up the book and continued the publication journey of this book.

The first half of the book details Willson’s experience living in Bahia, Brazil. Willson spends three years living in shantytowns, poverty, and inequality, and befriends Rita Conceição, an African-Brazilian activist. The story takes us into a world of drug dealers, street urchins and capoeiristas, and rather than the sandy, white beaches of Brazil which most tourists see when visiting, instead, shows us a side of Brazil that most of us will never see.

The second half of the book details Willson and Rita’s experience in creating and building Bahia Street.  Today, Bahia Street is a Center for Girls where they receive instruction in all basic subjects as well as  health and reproduction, art, and leadership skills. For many girls, the Bahia Street Center represents the only place where they can eat a hot meal, take a shower, and receive positive encouragement from adult role models. Dance Lest We All Fall Down is the story of how Rita and Margaret start Bahia Street with one girl, and build to the purchasing and reconstructing an building which becomes an educational center girls in which, today, seventy girls spend at least four hours  a day at the Bahia Street Center. Twelve of the Bahia Street girls have entered university and more than twenty have graduated from high school.

What makes the Bahia Street model different from other organizations is that the project comes from and is driven by the community. In the case of Bahia Street, there is both a U.S. Board and a London Board which help raise funds for the Bahia Center, but the work which goes on inside the Bahia center is driven by the Bahia Street Community. Rita Conceição, is the Bahia Center Street Director and grew up in the Shantytown of Salvador. She is a professional photographer and anthropogist and her personal struggles and journey give her the depth of understanding that makes Bahia Street such a success. Rita has has a staff of five people, and five interns.

If you would like to learn more about Bahia Street check out their website

Bahia Street also has a blog in which updates about the progress of Bahia Street are posted.

And, if you would like to learn more about the book, there is a video posted on their website here.

Dance Lest We All Fall Down won a Silver Medal for Multicultural Literature in the 2008 Independent Book Awards.

If you would like to be entered in the drawing to win a copy of this book, please post a comment below and tell why you would like to read this book and how you will share it with others.

The drawing will take place on Friday, July 30 and the winner’s name will be posted in the comment section of this post.


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