Hecht, Tobias 1964-
Hecht, Tobias 1964-
Born 1964. Education: University of Cambridge, Ph.D.
Freelance writer, editor, and translator.
Margaret Mead Award, 2002, for At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil; National Endowment for the Humanities and H.F. Guggenheim Foundation awards for research and writing.
(Translator) Cristina Peri Rossi, The Museum of Useless Efforts, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2001.
(Editor) Minor Omissions: Children in Latin American History and Society, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2002.
After Life: An Ethnographic Novel (portions based on the narrations of Bruna Veríssimo), Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2006.
Tobias Hecht is a writer, editor, and literary translator with a background in social anthropology. In his first book, At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil, he writes to debunk the commonly held beliefs related to the lives of street children, particularly those in Brazil. Through in-depth research and visits to the country, Hecht investigated the truth behind the stories of population estimates, ages, and living conditions. Unable to find the original sources behind the declaration that seven million homeless children were living on the nation's streets, Hecht endeavored to count them himself, careful to take notes at night of the children actually sleeping on the street so as not to confuse them with poor children who walked the streets by day but actually had homes to which they returned. Hecht's figures were still startling, but they were considerably lower at 39,000. He spoke to individuals, getting to know these children and the lives they led. In the Journal of Latin American Studies, Duncan Green remarked of the book: "The strength of this powerful ethnography is that it gives the street children their voice. Rather than the big-eyed, helpless victims of a hundred charity appeals, they become individuals, making choices, some surviving, others floundering in the harsh world of Latin America's streets."
Hecht went on to edit Minor Omissions: Children in Latin American History and Society, a collection of essays that examines the lives of Latin American children in relation to issues such as colonization, criminality, nation building, abandonment, revolution, and illegitimacy. Despite the lack of substantive documentation kept in Latin American countries, material was found to help back up these essayists' arguments. "The contributors to this volume should be applauded for their innovative use of sources available to them such as criminal records, interviews, church murals, art and photography," Erica Windler remarked in the Journal of Social History. "Hecht also cleverly incorporates the first hand account of a Brazilian street child and a short story by Cristina Rossi about the boys and girls who were taken from their families after Uruguay was seized by military coup in the 1970s." Writing for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Nicolas Argenti called the volume an "impressive history of childhood in South America."
In After Life: An Ethnographic Novel, Hecht's first work of fiction, he tells the story of a young anthropologist named Zoe, who journeys to a poor city in Brazil and meets an impoverished young boy named Beto. When she returns years later, she finds Beto has become a woman and is working as a prostitute. Zoe must choose between remaining true to her training and keeping herself separate from the people she has studied or giving in to her urge to help Beto. A Kirkus Reviews contributor found the work to be "poorly organized and emotionally unsatisfying"; a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, however, asserted that this "portrait of a Northern woman adrift and paralyzed in a fecund tropical locale is incisive."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Adolescence, summer, 2006, review of After Life: An Ethnographic Novel, p. 399.
Journal of Latin American Studies, February, 2000, Duncan Green, review of At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil, p. 285; November, 2003, Mark Wasserman, review of Minor Omissions: Children in Latin American History and Society, p. 912.
Journal of Social History, fall, 2004, Erica Windler, review of Minor Omissions, p. 246.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March, 2004, Nicolas Argenti, review of Minor Omissions, p. 176.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2006, review of After Life, p. 313.
Library Journal, May 15, 1998, Mark L. Grover, review of At Home in the Street, p. 100.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2006, review of After Life, p. 47.
Social Service Review, June, 2003, review of Minor Omissions, p. 321.
Duke University Press Web site,http://www.dukepress.edu/ (November 28, 2006), brief biography of To-bias Hecht.
Words without Borders,http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/ (November 28, 2006), brief biography of Tobias Hecht.*