Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Book - 2012
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Follows a handful of people as they try to find success in the poverty-stricken settlement of Annawadi, which exists in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport in India. Examines the struggles these people overcome on the way to fulfilling their dreams and examines how their experiences reflect on the ongoing transformation of the country as a whole.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781400067558
Branch Call Number: HV4140.M86 B66 2012
Characteristics: xxii, 256 p. ; 25 cm


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Apr 04, 2020

Can't say anything bad about this book....well--researched and well-written.

Jan 20, 2020

Recommended by Suzy Harrel

This is a nicely written book. I enjoyed the stories and subject matter and was surprised by the authors note at the end saying it was based on real life experiences (with real names). Highly recommend.

Aimee M Trudel
Sep 17, 2019

Jan Reynolds' recommendation - HIGHLY RECOMMENDS IT

May 06, 2019

Excellent book. It goes through the daily lives of poor scavengers in Mumbai slum without sentimentality or exploitation but captures the daily insights and challenges of the participants in a way that humanizes them. It highlights the aspirations of poor slum dwellers and the endemic corruption that exists in India. The book appears very well documented as the author enmeshed herself in the community.

TSCPL_LissaS Aug 14, 2018

This book begins with the opening sentence: "Midnight was closing in, the one-legged woman was grievously burned, and the Mumbai police were coming for Abdul and his father." For a solid month, I would open the book, read that sentence, feel overwhelmed by a few dozen words, and set the book aside. Two days before my book group met to discuss this book, I forced myself to read past the first sentence and immersed myself in this slum outside the Mumbai airport. Katherine Boo's writing is extraordinary, and while this narrative nonfiction is not plotted like novel, the characters, the real people she observed and reported, are depicted with depth and warmth and care and complexity. HIGHLY recommended, although reading for a book group where you can discuss and process with others was what made this even more rich for me.

Jul 15, 2018

Amazing story of survival or not in a Mumbai ghetto

Mar 17, 2018

I read this entire book believing that it was a novel and found at the end that it was a piece of journalism. The author visited the slums of Annawadi daily for four years and writes of the lives of the people. Their lives do not progress. There is not character development in the novel sense of the word. They are just there, responding to the needs of life and the harsh environment left for them. They are by the airport of a prosperous corner of India, but theirs is a dumping ground on which they have erected informal shacks. They work hard and the system offers them opportunity through corruption and graft. It is an indictment on social inequity. Katherine Boo spoke at Pen and Podium. She does not pity or sympathize with the people. She just tries to know and understand them , respect the choices they make daily, bring some resources and relief.

Mar 26, 2017

I read this book immediately after a 3-week visit to Mumbai which included a private walking tour of the Dharavi slum which was a fascinating look at the ‘hustle’ work ethic and highly organized routines around garbage and recycle processing. It made me think of an open-air ‘factory’ spread over many acres. I was impressed. But Boo’s ethical probe in this book cracked it wide open to all the unseen facets of utter poverty within a flourishing India, the pros and cons of globalism and corruption, the dog-eat-dog nature of their communities. Her journalism reads like a compelling story, without judgement or moralizing, drawing us deeply into the lives of some of the players, and the loss of their talents and intelligence and control. Yes, it was depressing. But necessary.

Feb 24, 2017

This is the best examination I’ve come across about poor people and how they interact with each other; how they manage their poverty in order to survive; and how they relate with government officials when the opportunity arises. Having spent considerable time in reporting on needy communities in the United States, and winning a Pulitzer Prize for it, apparently, the author turned to the poorest on earth and produced a superb examination of their lives in a novelized form. She deservedly won a National Book Award for her effort.

The story, based on real people, apparently, follows the lives of garbage collectors, young and old, as they go about their neurotic and sometimes psychopathic existence on the edge of a growing modern airport. Every day represents a test of their ability to survive against all odds including crooked and corrupt government officials who exploit them without pity.

Over all, the reader learns that there are poor people, and there are poor people. They’re not all the same, and they don’t all respond to their deprivation in the same manner. And, perhaps, most of all, they can claw at each other, if they have to, in order to survive.

When I began reading this book I marveled at the author’s ability to peer so intimately at the lives of her characters, and wondered how she captured the details. I’ve read many other works about poor people, mostly rural folks in Latin American, but none that honed in so sharply. In the last pages the author explains briefly her use of sociological science methods which aided her in amassing the overwhelming details which she then sorted out in order to fashion a complicated novel—too complicated for me, forcing me to skim and then finally re-evaluate the work. My rethinking produced the conclusions offered in the 1st paragraph here. It’s a masterful piece of work, no doubt.

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bibliotecarria Jan 26, 2016

"Maybe, we firmly concluded." (p. 252)

bibliotecarria Jan 26, 2016

"Water and ice were made of the same thing. He [Abdul] thought most people were made of the same thing, too. He himself was probably little different, constitutionally, from the cynical, corrupt people around him - the police officers and the special executive officer and the morgue doctor who fixed Kalu's death. If he had to sort all humanity by its material essence, he thought he would probably end up with a single gigantic pile. But here was the interesting thing. Ice was distinct from - and in his view, better than - what it was made of.

"He wanted to be better than what he was made of. In Mumbai's dirty water, he wanted to be ice. He wanted to have ideals. For self-interested reasons, one of the ideals he most wanted to have was a belief in the possibility of justice." (p. 218)

bibliotecarria Jan 26, 2016

"When I settle into a place, listening and watching, I don't try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments. I just believe that better arguments, maybe even better policies, get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives." (p. 251)

bibliotecarria Jan 26, 2016

"There being no way around the not-being-Indian business, I tried to compensate for my limitations the same way I do in unfamiliar American territory: by time spent, attention paid, documentation secured, accounts cross-checked." (p. 249)

bibliotecarria Jan 26, 2016

"Finally, a small triumph of information over corruption." (p. 219)

bibliotecarria Jan 26, 2016

"He [Sunil] was well suited to his work as a new-economy microsaboteur." (p. 194)

bibliotecarria Jan 26, 2016

"the full enjoy" (p. 49)


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May 10, 2017

An incredibly well researched and well told story of the lives of slum dwellers in Mumbai which captures their struggles, hopes, resilience and adaptability. Katherine Boo spent several years getting to know some of the residents of a slum near the Mumbai airport and presents a gripping story based primarily on the Muslim family of Abdul , a garbage sorter, who is falsely accused of a crime that has grave repercussions for his family. We see through the lives of these slum dwellers the impact of pervasive corruptness, globalization, religion, caste and gender. Quick paced and well told


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