Winner of the BookBrowse 2012 Best Nonfiction Book Award
In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees "a fortune beyond counting" in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter - Annawadi's "most-everything girl" - will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call "the full enjoy."
But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.
With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century's hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.
Let it keep, the moment when Officer Fish Lips met Abdul in the police station. Rewind, see Abdul running backward, away from the station and the airport, shirt buttons opening as he flies back toward his home. See the flames engulfing a disabled woman in a pink- flowered tunic shrink to nothing but a matchbook on the floor. See Fatima minutes earlier, dancing on crutches to a raucous love song, her delicate features unscathed. Keep rewinding, back seven more months, and stop at an ordinary day in January 2008. It was about as hopeful a season as there had ever been in the years since a bitty slum popped up in the biggest city of a country that holds one-third of the planet's poor. A country dizzy now with development and circulating money.
Dawn came gusty, as it often did in January, the month of treed kites and head colds. Because his family lacked the floor space for all of its members to lie down, Abdul was asleep on the gritty maidan, which for years had passed as his...
The consensus is in: Katherine Boo's narrative nonfiction about corruption, struggle, and hope in Annawadi, India, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, is very popular with BookBrowse reviewers; 30 out of 30 readers rate it 4 or 5 stars! Here's what people are saying:
Some books carry me along, this one pulled. It was not easy to read, yet not easily put down. Poverty, corruption, racism, economic envy, and brutal indifference toward human life pummel the inhabitants of Annawadi, Mumbai's undercity, yet amazingly, there exist pockets of hope and aspiration. I have been inspired by this book (Karen J). There have been few books in my life that have stayed with me long after reading them - for instance, To Kill a Mockingbird and Angela's Ashes - and now I will add Behind the Beautiful Forevers to the list (Anne B). (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (1125 words).
According to the UN, the percentage of urban dwellers living in slums dropped 10% to 37% in the 15 years leading up to 2005. But before you break out into celebration, there's just one tiny catch - because of the rising population, the total number of people living in slums has actually increased substantially, and is expected to continue to rise from about one billion today to about two billion by 2030.
Many residents vigorously oppose the description of "slum" on the basis that it leads to them being pathologized and opens them to threats of eviction (for example, this statement by the representatives of an informal settlement in Durban, South Africa). Even the United Nations (specifically the United ...
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"Astonishing. . . . A rich and varied spectacle, full of wisdom and laughter and the touches of the unexpectedly familiar through which literature illuminates life." - The Wall Street Journal.
In a time of global economic strain, this is an unforgettable evocation of persistence in the face of poverty in one of the worlds largest cities.
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