Tuesday, June 4, 2019 – discussion lead: Lynn
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is a non-fiction book written by the Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo in 2012. It won the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize among many others. It has also been adapted into a play by David Hare in 2014, shown on National Theatre Live in 2015.
The book describes a present-day slum of Mumbai, India, named Annawadi, and located near the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. It follows the interconnected lives of several residents, including a young trash picker, a female “slumlord,” and a college student. The author is an American woman who often visited Mumbai with her husband, who was from the area and had a job in the city.
From The Guardian’s review by Amit Chaudhuri: […] For Katherine Boo, working on this intimate account of life in Annawadi was slow, uncertain and painful in a variety of ways. For this, her first book, Boo, a Pulitzer prize-winning staff writer on the New Yorker, spent much of her life between November 2007 and March 2011 in Annawadi, documenting events with “written notes, video recordings, audiotapes and photographs”. Since she doesn’t know any Indian languages, she had translators throughout, one of whom must have helped her understand the sort of rejoinder that Asha made to Robert, ex-slumlord and one of her tormentors. For middle-class people like me who grew up in Bombay, forays into slums were infrequent. One sensed the goings-on and exchanges inside them as one would a foreign world, without completely understanding what was being said, in spite of (unlike Boo) knowing the language.[…]
Good Reads’s (readers) reviews here.
About the author:
From Penguin Random House: […] Katherine Boo is the author of the National Book Award winner for Nonfiction, the 2013 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award winner, and a 2013 Pulitzer finalist, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. In 2001, after many years spent exploring how people get out of poverty in the United States, she met Sunil Khilnani, an Indian writer and political historian. His country, which has one-third of the world’s poor and is also one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, became her country, too. Over time, moving between the U.S. and India, she came to feel that the style of reporting she practiced in America—a mix of intimate immersion and investigation—might have some value in India as well. From November 2007, when Boo first walked into Annawadi, until March 2011, when she completed her reporting, she documented the experiences of residents with written notes, video recordings, audiotapes, photographs, and thousands of public records. […]