1. You have a Master’s degree in Brazilian literature from the University of São Paulo (USP), and you were a professor of Portuguese and Brazilian culture at the University of Pennsylvania's Lauder Institute. What is one element of Brazilian culture or literature that you feel is most misunderstood by non-Brazilians?
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to senior Guilhermo G., and he showed me a New Yorker article written by Benjamin Moser entitled He’s One of Brazil’s Greatest Writers. Why Isn’t Machado de Assis More Widely Read? The article aptly addresses your question.
Moser writes that most foreigners during Machado de Assis’s time envisioned Brazil as “an unspoiled tropical paradise, swarming with noble savages. Yet - boringly enough - Brazil turned out, in so many ways, to be far more familiar than they imagined. This might be one reason that Machado never really caught on abroad. He was not interested in national folklore, and described a milieu that most foreigners did not want to recognize."
2. You teach Theory of Knowledge in the Graded High School. What is one concept you teach students that you wish the entire Graded community knew about?
That knowledge is provisional. The knowledge we have now is the best knowledge we have been able to get. It will change, for sure, but for now we can build things, probe the universe, create beauty, and all sorts of other amazing things – all from using our knowledge base as a jumping-off point, whether that knowledge is objective for all times, pure, and the absolute truth or not. I tell students they have to assess their knowledge, assume it's good, choose a direction, and take a step. They should then share what they find and others will correct it, incorporate it into the body of knowledge, and someone else will take the next step. We have to accept the imperfection of knowledge and move on.
3. What’s your favorite restaurant in São Paulo? Why?
Restaurante Nandemoyá, in Liberdade. I simply love the chill atmosphere and the amazing tempura ice cream!
4. What is one thing you would always prefer to pay someone else to do than do yourself? Why?
My taxes. I dread having to deal with those forms, the spreadsheets, the receipts...
5. What is your greatest weakness?
My greatest weakness is probably taking on too much at work and not being able to balance family and professional life.
6. You’re a Peer Group Connection (PGC) Advisor at Graded. Why are peer groups important?
A recent study published by neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at University College London shows that until very recently, it was assumed that teenage behavior was mostly explained by hormonal changes. However, recent studies have found that adolescence is actually a period of neurological change. In other words, what may look to us like incredible self-absorption is, in fact, essential neurological development. Teenagers achieve this through creating new allegiances independent of their parents. That’s why their friendships are so important. Peer groups are a powerful lever for developing safe, supportive connections. At the heart of the PGC Program at Graded are relationships built on mutual respect and support, and open communication between senior leaders and freshmen.
7. What is the best book you have read in the past 12 months?
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan. I liked it because Aslan discusses more than just religious knowledge. He talks about humanity and the development of ethical values.
8. What family tradition has special meaning to you?
Sunday lunches at my parents' house. The whole family comes together and we talk for hours.
9. What’s the best New Year’s resolution you’ve ever made?
In 2017, I made the resolution that I would go back to the University of São Paulo (USP) and finally get my doctorate in Portuguese literature. I am studying the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, whose passionate writing resonated with me while I was studying poetry as an undergraduate. I particularly like his notion that poetry is something divine.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
Graded is truly international! We embrace diversity, and our curriculum focuses on learning about ourselves, about others in the community, and about the world around us. Our students are encouraged to put this knowledge into practice by communicating with open hearts and actively contributing towards making our global community a better place.