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Behind the Beautiful Forevers

by Katherine Boo

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,4872672,553 (4.07)1 / 448
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)
Recently added byprivate library, froggy20, kayakerchris, jpierces2, ltbxf4, 0xreid, Ericacapete, lxco, ragdollmorton
  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.
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    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 (268)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (269)
Showing 1-5 of 268 (next | show all)
A sensitive description of life in Mumbai slums. ( )
  mohitgoel | Jul 3, 2020 |
2015 (review can be found at the link - which is a LibraryThing page)
https://www.librarything.com/topic/185746#5105143 ( )
  dchaikin | Jun 21, 2020 |
The author created a cast of characters to portray the realities of slum life in India. Besides the corruption and dreadful conditions, she looks at the rays of hope slum dwellers pursue and why these masses have not risen up to demand their piece of the pie. ( )
  snash | Jun 15, 2020 |
A description of life in a Mumbai slum. ( )
  addunn3 | May 7, 2020 |
India is the second most populous country in the world, with around 1.2 billion people living there. Around 20% of the population live in poverty, scraping an existence well below the minimum living wage recommended by the UN. It is a country of growth too, with over 5% increase in GDP per year, which has lifted around 20% of people out of poverty. This growth is very obvious around certain cities; the skyline of Mumbai has changed dramatically over the past few years. Modern hotels and skyscrapers have pierced the skyline as the areas around the airport have increased in prosperity. The jarring juxtaposition though is the slum area that butts up against these oases of luxury, of which Annawadi is one.

To understand this place, and to try to get a handle of the vast chasm between the very poorest and richest that live alongside each other, the Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo spent three years in the slum to get the best understanding of how the people there lived. She saw how Abdul would take life-risking chances to collect the scraps of plastic in the hope that they may make a little money. She also tells the story Kalu, a fifteen-year-old who is trying to make a living stealing scrap metal and Asha who has concluded that if she cannot beat the system then she is better of joining it. She is there when a petty argument erupts into a death and a court case, when terrorists attack one of the luxury hotels, killing a number of the rich guests and of how the city suffers in the modern global economy.

Katherine Boo has written a brutally honest account of the hazards and trials of life in a Mumbai slum; she doesn't hold back on the reporting about the squalor that the people live there suffer with whilst they look onto the rich and privileged as they live out their lives in comfort. Her prose is measured and written with a level of balance as she describes what she sees, but she is not scared to write about the reality for these people at the bottom of the caste system in India. An eye-opening book of a side of India that we know but rarely hear about and worth reading. 3.5 stars. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 268 (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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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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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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