The top paperback releases this month include works by Haruki Murakami, Sophie Mackintosh, and others.
Masters of the Lost Land Heriberto Araujo
Between 1985 and 2018, 92% of homicides related to land in Brazil resulted in no arrests, totaling 1,790 deaths. The Amazon rainforest, which is the biggest in the world, has become the most hazardous location for individuals advocating for environmental and land causes. As stated by journalist Heriberto Araujo from the New York Times, the Amazon continues to lack proper rule of law, which is essential for a functioning democracy.
In the state of Pará, Brazil, where a significant number of homicides take place, wealthy landowners hold a great deal of power and are often compared to “feudal lords”. They use their resources to bribe officials and even influence judges. As a result, many of their employees are forced into debt bondage, essentially becoming slaves. Tragically, in 2000, José Dutra da Costa, also known as Dezinho, the leader of a union representing farm workers, was assassinated by a hired killer while bravely advocating for the rights of his members.
The author, Araujo, shares his personal account along with that of his wife, Maria Joel Dias da Costa, who fought for justice against the rancher Décio José Barroso Nunes, the man responsible for hiring her husband’s killer. Now in her fifties, Araujo describes her as a courageous and peaceful woman who has endured death threats for 25 years. Despite Nunes being convicted in 2014, he was allowed to remain free while pursuing an appeal, highlighting the corruption of the Brazilian justice system when dealing with wealthy and influential individuals.
Since Araujo began researching in 2017, some 180 land and environmental activists have been murdered in Brazil. Among the latest victims were a couple and their teenage daughter who were campaigning to protect river turtles in Pará. It is, says Araujo, an underreported subject. His meticulously researched book follows the twists and turns of the complex investigation and trial, as well as showing how the jungle has become “not only a front line of climate change but also a place of human contest”.
Maria Joel is optimistic that positive results will arise from the passing of her husband and her ongoing advocacy efforts. She believes that the impact of her actions will continue to grow and eventually produce beneficial outcomes. As demonstrated by Araujo, the future of the Amazon rainforest relies on the bravery of individuals like Maria Joel.
Get the Guardian bookshop for £9.67, originally priced at £10.99.