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Book Review - Phenotypes

According to Brazil’s 2010 census, 43% of citizens identify as mixed-race, while 30% of those who consider themselves white have black ancestors. Brazil has always wrestled with issues surrounding colourism and racial classification. Even affirmative action policies – such as race-based quotas at universities – have proved contentious. Paulo Scott explores these tensions in his latest novel, seamlessly translated by Daniel Hahn. Lourenço and Federico are from the same Porto Alegre family – their father is black, their mother white. Lourenço is dark-skinned, while Federico’s pale skin means he passes for white. Uncomfortable with the privilege this brings him, Federico works with disadvantaged black youth and dedicates his life to fighting racism. But guilt taints his close relationships and fuels his quick temper. Eventually he moves away, while his brother, a basketball coach, remains a popular figure in their neighbourhood. Phenotypes opens in 2016, at the height of the quotas contro