Brief Reviews, VOLUME 4

Brief Review: Paulo Freire by James Kirylo [Vol. 4, #25.5]

A Brief Review of

Paulo Freire: The Man from Recife
James D. Kirylo.
Paperback: Peter Lang, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Paulo Freire is one of the most important thinkers of the last half-century, although you may never have heard his name – unless of course, you have a background in education.  And even among educators, his seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed is widely recognized, but not so much is known about Freire, the man, and the context out of which this work emerged.  Enter James Kirylo’s new book, Paulo Freire: The Man from Recife, a work that utilizes a variety of styles (biography, interview, scholarly engagement) to depict aptly the diversity of Freire’s life and work. Engaging Freire on a number of different levels as Kirylo does here, is helpful in shaping a robust image of Freire’s life, but also may mean that parts of the book are less interesting to some readers than others.

Readers of The Englewood Review of Books, will likely be interested in the two chapters on liberation theology, the first of which is a general overview of Freire’s engagements with liberation theology, and the second is an interview with Black liberation theologian James Cone on his engagements with Freire and his work.  I knew that Freire’s work emerged out of a Latin American context similar to that of liberation theology and there clearly are parallels between Freire’s writings and those of the liberation theologians, but these first of these chapters in Kirylo’s book was immensely helpful in deepening my understanding of the relationships between Freire and the liberation theologians.

The first third of the book is biographical and narrates Freire’s life, with a particular eye toward the formation of his work.  I was particularly struck here by the sections that recounted Freire’s work with the World Council of Churches (1970-1980), a facet of his life with which I was not previously familiar.  This work with the WCC, not only offered Freire the opportunity to explore the meanin of his work in a variety of global contexts, it also undoubtedly served to disseminate his work more broadly throughout the world.  After four chapters of biography, Kirylo turns to an examination of Freire’s work, which begins with an exploration of the thinkers who influenced his work (including a helpful section on the importance of his Christian faith) and then proceeds to an overview of the major themes in his work.  The latter part of the book includes the chapters on liberation theology mentioned above, a chapter on critical pedagogy, and concludes with three chapters on Freire’s legacy, one of which is an interview with his widow.

Freire’s work is extraordinarily important as we seek to understand Christian discipleship amidst twenty-first century globalization – and especially so when we remember that to be a disciple is to be a student.  Paulo Freire: The Man from Recife is a helpful introduction to Freire’s life and work, and hopefully will generate further interest in and reflection on his work.  There are some sections in this volume that I wish would have been edited with more care, but that should not deter readers from immersing themselves in Kirylo’s deeply appreciative work.


C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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4 Comments

  1. I was quite touched a few years ago to realize there are You Tube video clips of Paulo Freire speaking quite personally near the end of his life. Whether you are new to Freire’s work or have been reading him a long time, it is amazing to listen to him speak aloud.
    Enjoy!
    Susan

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Wz5y2V1af0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFWjnkFypFA&feature=related

  2. Thanks, Susan!!!   I look forward to watching those…

  3. Great review and so good to see that a book about Freire has been written. I first became acquainted with Freire a year ago when Pedagogy of the Oppressed was assigned reading for a class I was taking. I heavily underlined chapters one and two!  I readily recognized Freire’s description of the “banking concept” of education as being my primary experience as a Christian woman. So much of his book resonated with me as a woman who has been a part of patriarchal Christianity for so long that when I began to write a book on resisting patriarchal forms of Christianity, I had to quote him and I did. 

    Love him and look forward to knowing more about the man behind the writing.

  4. Great review and so good to see that a book about Freire has been written. I first became acquainted with Freire a year ago when Pedagogy of the Oppressed was assigned reading for a class I was taking. I heavily underlined chapters one and two!  I readily recognized Freire’s description of the “banking concept” of education as being my primary experience as a Christian woman. So much of his book resonated with me as a woman who has been a part of patriarchal Christianity for so long that when I began to write a book on resisting patriarchal forms of Christianity, I had to quote him and I did. 

    Love him and look forward to knowing more about the man behind the writing.