Around the World with Elena Como: An Interview


Interview conducted via e-mail on September 19, 2013.

As owner of Atlantico Books, your main responsibility is to buy and sell books in Portuguese. What inspired you to create your own books, such as the Ao Redor do Mundo series?

Elena: I would say we “import and distribute” (as opposed to buy and sell), but it’s the same basic idea. I wanted to find a creative way to collaborate with my “tribe” of Brazilian & Portuguese studies people. I also knew that there was a need for more “readers” for Portuguese students, with articles that are up-to-date and that expose students to the many different cultures and peoples of the Portuguese-Speaking Diaspora. It’s also been a real pleasure and my honor to help some of our younger collaborators to get their work into print for the first time.

What are some of the challenges you faced in the first volume of Ao Redor, that you were able to solve in the second volume?

Elena: For the first volume, I had more trouble sorting out “themes” for the diverse articles. In the volume two, I’m pleased that we were able to fit all of our articles into one of the three headings: Figuras Emblematicas, Comunidades e suas Culturas, & Nossa Língua Portuguesa.

Also, for the 2nd volume, I was very pleased to find a geographer, Michael Battaglia, who agreed to provide us with some helpful maps of the Lusophone World, and of the parts of the world where you find Lusophone Creole Languages (for Paula Soares’ article).

Another improvement is the addition of “perguntas antes de ler” or study-guides ahead of each chapter, to assist students in preparing for the new topic or new theme. This innovation was inspired by Luis Gonçalves and Celeste Mann, who each provided study questions before and after their chapters.

What themes are covered in the articles? What types of articles would you like to see in future volumes?

Elena: The articles are diverse! One that was very informative was Ana Paula Corazza’s article about the sustainable community harvest of the coco-licuri, in Brazil. I also enjoyed learning about Galicia  and its relationship with Portugal, and the Galego language, from Claudia Coelho’s article. There are several articles at the end of the book that talk about the Portuguese language and how it is spoken around the world. These were written by linguists and are the hardest reading in the book, but I feel it’s important to offer some more challenging articles for more advanced readers.

Celeste: In Volume 2 of Ao Redor do Mundo, in particular, there are a few articles about music, highlighting Cesária Evora (Cape Verde), Chiquinha Gonzaga (Brazil), Caetano Veloso (Brazil) and Amália Rodrigues (Portugal). In the first volume there’s an interview about Angolan music and the musician, Mário Rui Silva.

Would you briefly explain the process of collaboration on the volumes and how this has evolved? Are there things that you would do differently in the future?

Elena: When I started with “Missa do Galo e Outros Contos” it was mostly phone calls and emails. But for Ao Redor do Mundo I made use of Facebook, and Facebook (private) groups to reach out and collaborate with the contributors. Facebook was helpful in providing us with contacts, talented writers, illustrators, and willing and able editors.

For a future collaboration, I’d love to find a professional Brazilian and professional Portuguese editor to really clean up any typos, A.O. errors, and grammatical errors. It has been tricky editing a series with such diverse writing.

All of the articles are unique and interesting in their own ways, and popularity/accessibility would depend on the reader. Which ones  are  favorites of your clients?

Elena: Volume 2 is very new, so it’s hard to say! But in volume 1, many people have commented on the chapter “Meio Bugre” by Eva Bueno, and also on Eva’s “Gaijin, Gaijin.” For Brazilian literature enthusiasts, Selma Vital’s chapter about Machado de Assis and 18th Century Brazilian (male) novelists “Homens de Letras, Mulheres de Papel” was a hit. Another great article in volume 1 is Portugal e a Comunidade Digital, by Anita Melo, who gives a brief history of writing in Portugal, and an examination of blogs by Portuguese bloggers.

How has working on these volumes changed you in terms of your role as business owner and/or artist?  

Elena: These projects have allowed me to explore the role of Project Manager, and also to strengthen ties with teachers, friends, clients, and students of Portuguese. It’s been heartening to find so many people who want to contribute their talents to Ao Redor do Mundo.

How do you see these books contributing to cultural studies or the arts  in the world?

Elena: For students who want to learn more about the cultures that speak Portuguese, it’s often difficult to choose a topic or person to research, because although there’s much information on the internet, it is hard for a beginner to know where to start. For the ambitious Portuguese student who wants to know more about the Portuguese-speaking diaspora, I hope these books are helpful. Also, for former Portuguese students who want to get back into reading Portuguese, these books are easy to pick up and put back down, even for busy professionals, because most of the articles are quite short.

 How can people sample or purchase these volumes and other materials from Atlantico Books?

The first few chapters of volume 2 are visible as a “preview” on the Kindle E-Book page, here:

For a preview of volume 1, you can go here:

To purchase these or any of our other titles in Portuguese, go to

Thank you Elena! It’s been a pleasure to hear about the making of Ao Redor do Mundo Vol. 1 & 2.