Bruna Garcia Fonseca
São Paulo – Educational children’s books author Isa Colli’s “Dates and Kibbeh” came out in November. The book traces back the history of Arab immigration to São Paulo. An Arab culture aficionada, Colli had a stint living in the Brás neighborhood of the city, where she found out about the history of Hospedaria do Brás, a public lodge which welcomes immigrants from multiple nationalities, including Syrian and Lebanese.
“I wrote ‘Dates and Kibbeh’ very unpretentiously, because I love the culture and the cuisine of the Middle East, and because I am a granddaughter of Spanish and Portuguese immigrants. And while living in Brás, I found out how immigrants have been welcomed since the 18th century, through some grandiose work that’s done until this day. I pieced it all together and wrote a fictional book based on that,” Colli told ANBA on the phone.
The book tells the tale of Portugal’s José Braz, who used to welcome immigrants from all over at his farm. The place ultimately becomes populated with incredible characters, like Mr. Mohamed, an Arab merchant who owned a spice shop and an Arab restaurant. The little boy Zezinho is awed by the scents and flavors of this hitherto unknown culture.
Zezinho’s life changes as he becomes friends with Mr. Mohamed. The kid takes an interest in Arab cuisine and culture, and he ends up becoming a chef, while learning respect of different cultures and the value of friendship to boot. The book also relays basic lessons in the value of study, work, and entrepreneurship, in a very didactical and playful way “The friendship between them is built on honesty, kinship, care, and truth. It was never about imposition. Zezinho chooses to work with what he loves, and I find that extremely important. We need to choose our profession wisely so we can be happy,” the writer said.
Colli has been living in Waterloo, Belgium since 2014. A successful children’s book writer, she has 33 published titles and over 100 completed books. She holds a degree in Social Communication.
Another of Colli’s books, “The Magical Elephant and the Moon,” released in 2019, is set in the Arab world. The book’s available in bilingual English/Portuguese and Arabic/Portuguese editions. The author is looking to publish a book on Italian immigration to Brazil.
Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum