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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death,…

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (edition 2012)

by Katherine Boo

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3,1722532,617 (4.07)1 / 428
Title:Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
Authors:Katherine Boo
Info:Random House (2012), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

  1. 60
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    Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh (wandering_star)
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English (259)  Italian (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (261)
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" is a close look at the struggle that is the daily life of so many of India's poor. The author, who is married to an Indian man, spent time on the ground with the people she profiles in her study, and it shows in the way that she was able to make each of them stand out as the unique human being they are.

But (and I don't know that this is what Boo is aiming for) if the author wants her readers to come away from "Beautiful Forevers" with hope that life will eventually get better for India's poor, that did not happen for me. Rather, I find the book to be the most depressing one that I've read in years because I do not see much hope for a better life for any of the people profiled - or for any of their slum neighbors. The way that these poor treat each other is appalling, but in a dog-eat-dog world like the one they live in, it is understandable. They keep others down by lying about each other, filing false charges/claims with the police or with lawyers, stealing from each other, and abusing each other in every way imaginable.

"Beautiful Flowers" is a multi-award winner, including the National Book Award and The Pen Award, and I can understand why it did so well. But what the book revealed about human nature, left me feeling sadder and more hopeless about the future than I can recall ever having been. Maybe it's time my eyes were opened. ( )
  SamSattler | Mar 7, 2019 |
Relentless. The narrative reads as fiction, at a breathtaking pace, every observation drilling in the dead ends, often literally, met in a Mumbai slum. The slum is surrounded by plush hotels and an airport signifying the globalisation of this bustling city, yet none of this filters down to the "down to earn-and-eat" poor. Divisions between the slum-dwellers, real and imagined, for all purposes dwarf the overarching division between rich and poor. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is about how they survive day-to-day. How their lives become insignificant, to themselves as well as others, not because of any religious or brutish factors but because of their dire circumstances and worldly corruption which keeps them there.

Think Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, twice the pace, yet unbelievably true. The Author's Note at the end is a must-read. I have had the pleasure of reading her close friend Ramachandra Guha (India After Gandhi, Gandhi Before India); and also her husband Sunil Khilnani, whose Incarnations: India in 50 Lives I recommend for an overview of key historical figures and breadth of Indian culture. ( )
  jigarpatel | Feb 27, 2019 |
Really good but so so depressing. I was not in the headspace to read this book. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
A tragically fascinating read, as long as you read it in the context of nonfiction. Were I the editor, the second half of the Author's Note should have been a Forward to start the entire novel. This would safeguard against readers like myself, who in a sleep-deprived state, started this book without fully appreciating that these people are REAL and authentically documented. Appreciating that approach, the impact of everyday events to the poor in India are at best bittersweet and at worst traumatic. Beautiful literary analogies present an interwoven insightful theme, lending credence to the intelligence of all peoples and not simply the educated or elite. It is time to consider such a good book that raises important social questions. ( )
  Meghanista | Dec 19, 2018 |
Very intense book. The fact that it reads like a novel keeps the horror at bay, for a while. The reality of it all iss at times incomprehensible! ( )
  jslantz1948 | Sep 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
Next I devoured Boo’s book, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” which extended her probing and compassionate portrayal of poverty to India. Before becoming a journalist, I had spent nearly two years working with grass-roots groups in Mumbai slums just like Annawadi, the one she spent three years chronicling for the book. I’d been so upset by journalistic portrayals of these neighborhoods that I wrote an entire master’s thesis about the subject. Now, finally, here was an account that took slum residents seriously as protagonists in their own lives, without dismissing the inequality and corruption that stymied them.
Boo, in letting go of her story, in dwelling with it relatively briefly in her book's 250 pages (in contrast to the years she spent with the slum-dwellers), allows it to resonate with us as a small classic of contemporary writing.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Katherine Booprimary authorall editionscalculated
Malhotra, SunilReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For two Sunils
and what they've taught me about not giving up
First words
Midnight was closing in, the one-legged woman was grievously burned, and the Mumbai police were coming for Abdul and his father.
“Instead, powerless individuals blamed other powerless individuals for what they lacked. Sometimes they tried to destroy one another. Sometimes, like Fatima, they destroyed themselves in the process.”
She was damaged, and acknowledged it freely. She was illiterate--acknowledged that, too. But when others spoke of her fury as an ignorant, animal thing, that was bukwaas, utter nonsense. Much of her outrage derived from a belated recognition that she was as human as anyone else.
. . . He still found it strange to think of her as dead, because at Annawadi he hadn't considered her fully alive. Like many of his neighbors, he had assessed her damage, physical and emotional, and casually assigned her to a lesser plane of existence. . . .
In the West, and among some in the Indian elite, this word, "corruption", had purely negative connotations; it was seen as blocking India's modern, global ambitions. But for the poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained.
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Book description
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and a India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a teenager who sorts and sells recyclable airport garbage, believes that he's on the verge of lifting his family of eleven out of poverty. Asha, a mother of three, is determined to make her sensitive teenage daughter, Manju, the first female college graduate in Annawadi. Meanwhile, even the poorest among them, like Kalu, a homeless, fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, feel themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call the "Full Enjoy." But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terrorism and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the true contours of an unequal, desperately competitive market city are revealed, so too are the resilience and ingenuity of the people of Annawadi. (978-1-4000-6755-8)
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Profiles everyday life in the settlement of Annawadi as experienced by a Muslim teen, an ambitious rural mother, and a young scrap metal thief, illuminating how their efforts to build better lives are challenged by religious, caste, and economic tensions.… (more)

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