The Author Stories Podcast Episode 609 | Karen Keilt Interview

Today’s author interview guest is Karen Keilt, author of The Parrot’s Perch: A Memoir.

The Parrot’s Perch opens in 2013, when Karen Keilt, age sixty, receives an invitation to testify at the Brazilian National Truth Commission at the UN in New York. The email sparks memories of her “previous life”―the one she has kept safely bottled up for more than thirty-seven years. Hopeful of helping to raise awareness about ongoing human rights violations in Brazil, she wants to testify, but she anguishes over reliving the horrific events of her youth.

In the pages that follow, Keilt tells the story of her life in Brazil―from her exclusive, upper-class lifestyle and dreams of Olympic medals to her turmoil-filled youth. Full of hints of a dark oligarchy in Brazil, corruption, crime, and military interference, The Parrot’s Perch is a searing, sometimes shocking true tale of suffering, struggle―and survival.

Born and educated in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Karen Keilt moved to the US at the age of 27.

Karen has enjoyed an eclectic career including Riding Master and General Manager of a men’s pro hockey franchise though she always gravitated back to her love of writing; first as a newspaper columnist in South Carolina, and later writing four screenplays including: “The Parrot’s Perch”, “Bethebotu”, a children’s fantasy about pink dolphins and mermaids, “The Gnashing of Teeth”, an adaptation of the coming-of-age novel by James Raymond about the Korean War and “Maracanazo”, a wonderful story about two young men from different worlds both dreaming of winning the World Cup. Karen enjoys traveling, hiking, Anusara Yoga, amateur photography, and horseback riding and lives in Arizona with her husband and their dog Luna. Karen’s first book, The Parrot’s Perch was written in 2010 and is a fictionalized account of events that occurred in Brazil in 1976.

On April 30, 2010, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled to uphold a 1979 law stating that crimes committed by members of the military regime were political acts and therefore covered by amnesty. That law remains in place today. The Court’s ruling makes it clear that the Brazilian Amnesty Law violates Brazil’s international obligations and that it represents an obstacle in the search for truth.

Amnesty International has condemned the Brazilian Supreme Court’s blocking of this recent reinterpretation of the 1979 Amnesty Law that protects members of the former military government from being put on trial for extrajudicial killings, torture and rape.

“The ruling places a judicial stamp of approval on the pardons extended to those in the military government who committed crimes against humanity,” said Tim Cahill, Amnesty International’s Brazil researcher.

In April 2010, Mr. Cahill went on to say, “In a country that sees thousands of extra-judicial killings every year at the hands of security officials and where many more are tortured in police stations and prisons, this ruling clearly signals that in Brazil nobody is held responsible when the state kills and tortures its own citizens,” said Tim Cahill.

In 2013 Karen gave her testimony to the Brazilian National Truth Commission at Brazil’s permanent mission to the UN in New York City. That investigation resulted in new information about Karen’s ordeal at the hands of Brazilian police. Following that investigation, in 2018 Karen wrote a memoir titled The Parrot’s Perch – A Memoir of Torture and Corruption in Brazil. A parrot’s perch is a device commonly used for torture in Brazil’s jails and prisons.

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