Books by Black and Female Authors Hold Greater Prominence in College Entrance Exams

Survey shows works by Conceição Evaristo, Ruth Guimarães, and Cruz e Sousa in tests in the country

São Paulo

In the list of ten mandatory books for the Fuvest entrance exam in 1989, the first time this was required at the University of São Paulo, there were only male authors. All were white, except one: Machado de Assis, with "Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas." In the list announced for the 2026 exam, the institution requires nine books, with a majority of black authors. But there is only one woman—Ruth Guimarães and her "Água Funda," which will be required for entrants in 2025.

Ruth Guimarães receiving the title of "Immortal" from the São Paulo Academy of Letters (Foto: Arquivo Pessoal) - Arquivo Pessoal

Gustavo Monaco, a law professor who took over as executive director of Fuvest at the beginning of the year, sees this as "a huge problem." "Ideally, female candidates, who make up more than half of the exam takers, could recognize themselves in the list of books." This criterion, he says, will be one that will guide future lists.

"There is this notion that men constituted Brazilian literature, but we see that there were earlier authors who were forgotten. The university has the role of showing its research to the community, and ours showed that these women were erased due to gender, not quality," says Márcia Ivana de Lima e Silva, head of the Institute of Letters at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.

The symbolist poet Cruz e Sousa, who is black, usually appears on the list of his state's federal university, Santa Catarina. It was at the Santa Catarina institution, by the way, that a black woman first appeared as required reading—Conceição Evaristo with "Olhos d’Água" in 2017. Ruth Guimarães will become the first black woman required by USP next year.

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