Behind the beautiful forevers [life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity]

Katherine Boo

Book - 2012

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Subjects
Published
New York : Random House c2012.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Item Description
Subtitle from cover.
Physical Description
256 p. ; 25 cm
ISBN
9781400067558
1400067553
Main Author
Katherine Boo (-)
  • 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
  • A little wildness. 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.
Review by Booklist Reviews

While the distance between rich and poor is growing in the U.S., the gap between the haves and have-nots in India is staggering to behold. This first book by a New Yorker staff writer (and Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for the Washington Post) jolts the reader's consciousness with the opposing realities of poverty and wealth in a searing visit to the Annawaldi settlement, a flimflam slum that has recently sprung up in the western suburbs of the gigantic city of Mumbai, perched tentatively along the modern highway leading to the airport and almost within a stone's throw of new, luxurious hotels. We first meet Abdul, whose daily grind is to collect trash and sell it; in doing so, he has "lifted his large family above subsistence." Boo takes us all around the community, introducing us to a slew of disadvantaged individuals who, nevertheless, draw on their inner strength to not only face the dreary day but also ponder a day to come that will, perhaps, be a little brighter. Sympathetic yet objective and eloquently rendered. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

You'll know Boo from her work at the Washington Post and now as staff writer for The New Yorker, which has brought her any number of honors, including the MacArthur "genius" award. Her writing is marked by a persuasive sense of humanity, never more than in this study of the hopeful and go-getting inhabitants of the slums surrounding the luxury hotels at the Mumbai airport. Teenaged Abdul aims to better his family with finds from the trash rich tourists have discarded, for instance, while Asha works to make her promising daughter the slum's first female college graduate. Of course, abuse, envy, and political and religious tensions turn up as well. Comparisons to Slumdog Millionaire are inevitable, but this would also match up nicely with fiction from Aravind Adiga (e.g., The White Tiger). For all informed readers; with a seven-city tour. [Page 52]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Boo's (The New Yorker) first book. She takes a look at the stark lives of the inhabitants of Annawadi, a slum across from Mumbai's Sahar Airport, to reveal the wrenching inequality and urban poverty still endemic in India's democracy. Using recorded and videotaped conversations, interviews, documents, and the assistance of interlocutors, Boo profiles the lives of some of the slum dwellers from November 2007 to March 2011. There is Abdul, a young adult scavenger with a profitable trade in recyclables. The one-legged Fatima's home is divided from Abdul's by merely a sheet. Readers follow the treacherous paths of these and other lives. A fateful chain of events leads to a criminal case against Abdul and his family. Boo presents glimpses of the corrupt police who feed on those without political power or education. She claims she witnessed most of the events described in the book. VERDICT A tour de force, this book is powerful yet far from harrowing. Highly recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, 8/21/11.]—Ravi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL [Page 118]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

India may have a thriving economy and expansive future, but Boo shows us the lives excluded from those attainments as she follows members of a ragged Mumbai slum improvised on the edge of the city's 21st-century expansion. With character studies so eloquent that readers may forget these are realities, Boo charts how Abdul, Fatima, Kalu, and others assert power and hope in the midst of their calamitous existence. (LJ 2/15/12)—Margaret Heilbrun (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

A Mumbai slum offers rare insight into the lives and socioeconomic and political realities for some of the disadvantaged riding the coattails (or not) of India's economic miracle in this deeply researched and brilliantly written account by New Yorker writer and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Boo. Divided into four parts, the narrative brings vividly to the page life as it is led today in Annawadi, a squalid and overcrowded migrant settlement of some 3,000 people squatting since 1991 on a half-acre of land owned by the Sahar International Airport. (Boo derives her title from a richly ironic real-world image: a brightly colored ad for floor tiles repeating "Beautiful Forever" across a wall shutting out Annawadi from the view of travelers leaving the airport.) Among her subjects is the fascinating Abdul, a sensitive and cautiously hopeful Muslim teenager tirelessly trading in the trash paid for by recycling firms. Crucially, Boo's commanding ability to convey an interior world comes balanced by concern for the structural realities of India's economic liberalization (begun the same year as Annawadi's settlement), and her account excels at integrating the party politics and policy strategies behind eruptions of deep-seated religious, caste, and gender divides. Boo's rigorous inquiry and transcendent prose leave an indelible impression of human beings behind the shibboleths of the New India. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A first book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist profiles everyday life in the settlement of Annawadi as experienced by a Muslim teen, an ambitious rural mother of a prospective female college student and a young scrap metal thief, in an account that illuminates how their efforts to build better lives are challenged by regional religious, caste and economic tensions. 35,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER ' NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER ' NAMED ONE OF TIME's TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE DECADE"Inspiring . . . extraordinary . . . [Katherine Boo] shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care.''People'A tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.''Judges, PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times ' The Washington Post ' O: The Oprah Magazine ' USA Today ' New York ' The Miami Herald ' San Francisco Chronicle ' NewsdayIn this breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees 'a fortune beyond counting' in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi's 'most-everything girl," might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century's hidden worlds'and into the hearts of families impossible to forget. WINNER OF: The PEN Nonfiction Award ' The Los Angeles Times Book Prize ' The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award ' The New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book AwardNAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker ' People ' Entertainment Weekly ' The Wall Street Journal ' The Boston Globe ' The Economist ' Financial Times ' Foreign Policy ' The Seattle Times ' The Nation ' St. Louis Post-Dispatch ' The Denver Post ' Minneapolis Star Tribune ' The Week ' Kansas City Star ' Slate '  Publishers Weekly

Review by Publisher Summary 5

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NAMED ONE OF TIME’S TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE DECADE

“Inspiring . . . extraordinary . . . [Katherine Boo] shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care.”—People


A tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.”—Judges, PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award 

ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times • The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • USA Today • New York • The Miami Herald • San Francisco Chronicle • Newsday

In this breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.

As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. 

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget. 

WINNER OF: The PEN Nonfiction Award • The Los Angeles Times Book Prize • The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award • The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Wall Street Journal • The Boston Globe • The Economist • Financial Times • Foreign Policy • The Seattle Times • The Nation • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Denver Post • Minneapolis Star Tribune • The Week • Kansas City Star • Slate •  Publishers Weekly