UI Portuguese professor publishes work with Brazlian literary group Mulherio das Letras

Cristiane Barbosa de Lira works with a growing Brazil-based group, Mulherio das Letras. Thanks to the all-women writing group, she was able to publish two books in 2019.


Hannah Kinson

UI instructor Cristiane Barbosa de Lira poses for a portrait on Feb. 19, 2020. Barbosa de Lira recently got a book of poetry published in Brazil and is the only Portuguese professor at the university.

Samantha Murray, Arts Reporter

With the help of Mulherio das Letras, an all-women writing group based in Brazil, University of Iowa Portuguese Professor Cristiane Barbosa de Lira recently published two books. Her work is also included in past collections of the growing literary organization.

For Brazilian-born Barbosa de Lira, who goes by Cris Lira at the UI, Mulherio das Letras is an important group. It formed in 2017 when author and founder Maria Valeria Rezende organized a Facebook group to celebrate women writers because no women were nominated for a literary award in Brazil’s well-known culture and literary magazine Bravo!.

Within a few months, the group had produced its first collection of books. During an interview with The Daily Iowan, Barbosa de Lira brought out a set of four books that made up the first collection. They appeared homemade, bound in pink, yellow, and green cardboard covers with painted lettering.

“They were published in four collections by Mariposa Cartonera,” Barbosa de Lira said. “And for this [collection], it was 100 female writers working. Every single one sent their text through that Facebook page, and then a couple of months later we had the first collection of Mulherio.”

The group has spread beyond Brazil, establishing chapters in Portugal, France, and the U.S. The U.S. group held its first meeting at the annual South Atlantic Modern Language Association conference last November.

Through the group, Barbosa de Lira was able to publish a book of short stories called No País Da Infancia and a book of poetry called Ponte Para o Poente in 2019. All of her stories are in Portuguese, except one of her short stories that was developed in English in her International Writers Workshop class.

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“English is like a straightjacket because I cannot produce the same rhythm that I can produce in Portuguese,” Barbosa de Lira said. “My vocabulary is not as expansive as English as it is in Portuguese, I will say, so even though I can use the English term for my writing in Portuguese, the other way around is a little bit difficult for me.”

When she lived in Brazil, Barbosa de Lira was a high school Portuguese teacher. She came to the U.S. with her husband in 2008, though at the time she was unable to speak English. She would later receive her Ph.D. in romance languages with a focus in Argentine and Brazilian literature from the University of Georgia.

Afterwards, Barbosa de Lira came to the UI to teach, where she ended up staying, partially because of the prospect of working with Maria José Barbosa, now a UI Spanish and Portugese professor emeritus.

“She was a very well-known critic of literature,” Barbosa de Lira said. “I was really looking forward to working with her, so she was one of the main reasons why I was brought to Iowa, I would say.”

Barbosa de Lira said the Spanish and Portugese Department is growing, and has plans in the future for more advanced classes and culture classes.

For now, part of her spreading the Portuguese language and Brazilian culture comes from her YouTube channel where she reads from the collections of Mulherio das Letras.

“Let’s just hope that being able to show and deal with students will inspire them to write as well,” she said. “I usually incorporate that into my writing.”

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