Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
'If Bollywood ever decides to do its own version of The Wire, this would be it'. That's how a fellow writer described our groundbreaking, captivating February Non-fiction Book of the Month, Behind The Beautiful Forevers, by New Yorker journalist and Pulitzer prize winner Katherine Boo.
Boo spent three years in the makeshift settlement of Annawadi, a slum in the shadow of Mumbai's ever growing airport and luxury hotels. As India starts to prosper amid extraordinary global changes, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising Muslim teenager, is steadfastly gathering a deposit for a house by dealing in recyclable garbage. Asha plans to become the first female slum-lord, political corruption being the quickest route to the middle-class. Her daughter will soon become Annawadi's first female college graduate. Even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to a better life.
The stories of Annawadi's residents are fascinating and brutal and funny and tragic. Most of all, they feel tangible – no longer a statistic or a negative news story, or charity advert. Boo's capacity for putting each event, however shocking, in a personal context makes the book truly remarkable. As Boo says, 'I've been waiting years to run into a representative person. Sadly, all I ever meet are individuals. But every day I find myself tripping over connections among those individuals–qualities that transcend specificities of geography, culture, religion, caste, or class.' One of the biggest stories of the twenty-first century is the vast, growing inequality between the rich and the poor. This book explores that inequality - its human effects and consequences – in a style that entertains and informs in equal measure.
Katherine Boo is an investigative journalist focusing on matters of poverty and opportunity. She has been a staff writer at the New Yorker for twelve years. She is married to Sunil Khilnani, a political historian and director of King's India Institute in London. Winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction and A New York Times bestseller, Behind The Beautiful Forevers is her first book.
Find interviews with the author, discussion notes, reviews and pictures on her excellent website.
Come and discuss the book throughout the month and share your thoughts on Boo's writing, her extraordinary achievement and her cast of characters. Buy a paperback copy of her book or get the Kindle version here