Exile Within Exiles: Review

Exile Within Exiles: Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary
by James N. Green
Duke University Press

Reviewed by John Francis Leonard

Penning a biography about a widely known public figure must be challenging enough. What would be even more difficult, is writing one about an important person in a country’s history who is often overlooked, lost to the annals of time. James N. Green captures the life of an extraordinary figure in late twentieth-century Brazil and does so with great detail and sensitivity. Not only was Herbert Daniel an important and compelling figure in his country of Brazil, he died far too soon in the early AIDS crisis—making it even more important to record his life and accomplishments. Through extensive interviews with those closest to Daniel, Green paints a vivid picture of a gay man who struggled to free his country from a twenty-year military dictatorship and who then went on to a second life of activism and advocacy fighting for causes not always recognized by the left-wing movement of which he had been a vital part.

Daniel gives us a full and well rounded portrait of a man who started out his life as a bookish intellectual and then went on to engage in a leftist, revolutionary movement after his government had been hijacked by an extreme military regime in the mid-1960s. He had this political awakening while in medical school and went on, to the surprise of many who knew him, to train and engage in guerrilla warfare and tactics. Not only does Green, himself active in Brazil’s leftist causes, describe a man, he paints a vivid picture of a turbulent time in the history of Brazil and South America. Daniel was eventually driven into European exile and spent many years away from the country he loved. When allowed to return, he became a new breed of activist fighting for such causes as feminism, human rights, and HIV/AIDS, the disease that would eventually take his life in the early nineties.

Beautifully researched and realized, Exile Within Exiles is the story, not only of a man, but a movement. Its apt title is the perfect metaphor for a gay man whose sexuality was not widely accepted by the movement that was so close to his heart.

John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.