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Behind the Beautiful Forevers

by Katherine Boo

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,7952782,504 (4.08)1 / 458
The dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century's great, unequal cities. In this 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 fortune in the recyclable garbage of richer people. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a rural childhood, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to good times. But then, as the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed.--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 70
    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (fountainoverflows)
    fountainoverflows: A classic story, also set in Mumbai/Bombay, but covering some very similar territory.
  2. 50
    Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (TomWaitsTables)
  3. 20
    Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Another journalistic-novelistic account of lives in Bombay, but more wide ranging across classes and by a native.
  4. 10
    Libertad by Alma Fullerton (fountainoverflows)
    fountainoverflows: Although a children's title, this book follows the story of two boys whose lives revolve around salvaging cardboard and other waste in a Guatemalan dump. When their mother is buried in the refuse, they make a trek north to find their father, supposedly in the Southern U.S. border states. Their lives have a considerable amount in common with the Husain family's.… (more)
  5. 00
    The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: Same type of "family" memoir written in literary style.
  6. 00
    Planet of Slums by Mike Davis (Nickelini)
  7. 00
    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (TomWaitsTables)
  8. 00
    The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India by Siddhartha Deb (TomWaitsTables)
  9. 00
    Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both authors have spent a long time with a community of the very poor and have produced sympathetic and very insightful books about how the "underclass" see, and manage their interactions with, the rest of society.
  10. 01
    The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time by Bob Harris (srdr)
    srdr: Engaging stories of how microfinance loans via the internet can change the lives of the working poor worldwide.
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English (279)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (280)
Showing 1-5 of 279 (next | show all)
adult nonfiction; life in the slums of Mumbai. A lyrically-written alternate reality that is all too true for so many. Wow. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
non-fic; really a downer BAH
  18cran | May 29, 2021 |
Life is nasty, brutish, and short in the Mumbai slums. Rule of law is only for those who can pay. For those who can’t, any misstep escalates into vicious cycles of extortion and violence. I read with a grain of salt given the outsider profile of the author, and there’s plenty of cognitive dissonance with the voyeuristic nature of a book its subjects will never be able to read. But Boo is thorough, demonstrating unambiguously the devastating human cost of economic oppression and institutional failure. ( )
  jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
Well, I finished it. It was about one in the morning by the time I was done, and I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. The problem is that I was not punched with a bat, or even with fists, but whatever was used to punch me, it was elegant and even soft at times.

Like everyone else before me, I loved this book. It was written with care, not only the language, but the fact that the people portrayed here are real people. And Katherine Boo does the almost impossible act of writing without using false romanticism or becoming contrived. She manages to honor those people, give them personalities, without trivializing them, or embellishing them and their daily struggles either.

But I now need a rest. It feels even small to say this, but I need to laugh, or get lost into a mystery, read a comic book.
The thing about this book is that it does not let go of you. And it makes me feel so impotent, so petty going about my inconsequential problems.

It deserved the Pulitzer!

Now I am going for a walk…
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
3.5 stars

This is really great at opening a person's eyes. I believe this book said (and that I've read before) that Mumbai is the dirtiest city and the poorest in the world (sorry if I'm getting that wrong but it's close if it isn't first in those categories). The water has everything imaginable in it. The politics to get justice for anything or assistance is so corrupt. Everyone down the line has to get a take so that the one that's supposed to benefit receives practically nothing, if anything. The people are basically squatters with makeshift homes they erect from whatever so they have no ownership rights. Some make money by sorting through trash for recyclables. It's backbreaking filthy work. This book follows a few people. It was difficult sometimes for me to keep each person straight. It's the kind of story that will make you appreciate not having these struggles. It also makes you want to do something to help, but it seems difficult with the levels of corruption to make positive changes. ( )
  ToniFGMAMTC | Feb 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 279 (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.
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Katherine Booprimary authorall editionscalculated
Malhotra, SunilReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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Epigraph
Dedication
For two Sunils
and what they've taught me about not giving up
First words
[Prologue] Midnight was closing in, the one-legged woman was grievously burned, and the Mumbai police were coming for Abdul and his father.
Let it keep, the moment when Officer Fish Lips met Abdul in the police station.
[Author's Note] Ten years ago, I fell in love with an Indian man adn gained a country.
Quotations
“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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Wikipedia in English (2)

The dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century's great, unequal cities. In this 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 fortune in the recyclable garbage of richer people. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a rural childhood, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to good times. But then, as the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed.--From publisher description.

No library descriptions found.

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)

Prologue: Between roses -- Undercitizens -- Annawadi -- Asha -- Sunil -- Manju -- The business of burning -- Ghost house -- A hole she called a window -- A come-apart -- The master -- Market city -- Marquee effect -- Parrots, caught and sold -- Proper sleep -- Up and out -- Nine nights of dance -- Something shining -- The trial -- Ice -- Black and white -- A school, a hospital, a cricket field.
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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