Behind The Beautiful Forevers
- Overseas Editions New
- Publication Date:
- 07 February 2012
- Politics & Government
Showing 1-3 out of 3 reviews.
This is a very difficult book to read because of the realities of poverty in India. The slum called Annawadi lies close to the Mumbai airport. The author, Katherine Boo, observed the people in the book and watched their stories unfold. I felt hopeless about the condition of the people in the slum early on in the book. Their living conditions and signs of any hope for improvement were so dismal that I had to put the book down and start reading what I now call my “relief book”. Then I came back to this book and alternated between them. That is why I say that if you decide to read ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ you must be prepared to be depressed, really depressed!This slum is in same city as new skyscrapers and Bollywood movies. India is undergoing a transformation but how much of this change reaches those in the slums? It started in 1991 when laborers from Tamil were brought in to repair a runway at the airport. The land was unclaimed so they decided to settle there. Seventeen years later, there were three thousand people living there. In the book, we follow the lives of Abdul, Asha, Manju, Asha’s daughter and Fatima, a one legged prostitute to name a few. But their lives get squashed in the overwhelming corruption, filth and disease. There are more individuals followed in this book but I think this is enough for this review.Abdul is one of the Muslims in a mostly Hindu population of Annawadi. He wants to get out of the slum by working long hours in the dirty job of sorting garbage for recycling and selling by weight the discards and trash from the airport. The trash collectors are one rung below him. He and they don’t see the value of bathing because they will end up dirty and smelling the next day anyway. Asha sorted 6o different kinds of trash and had been doing this since he was only six years old.The book says that there are 1,000 trash pickers and 8,000 tons of garbage every day in that slum. So that is one third of the people do, pick through the trash. The smells must be sickening; the sights atrocious, the rats live there too. Asha is trying to get her family out of the slum too. She thinks she can do this by her quick thinking and by breaking gender barriers in politics. But will she succeed?Her daughter, Manju teaches English to some of the children of the slum. She wants out too and is trying by getting more education. Will she win despite all the odds against her?Fatima is a prostitute who has a deformed leg. What will become of her?Everything is corrupt, everything. The government provides cheap healthcare but the doctors cannot raise their families on what they get so they ask for large sums of under the table money. How do you get a job that is not trash picking? That is corrupt too. The water is unfit to drink; the leaves on the trees are gray from the ash from a nearby concrete plant. When reading this book, I could not find any system that was not corrupt. There is religious discrimination, of course class discrimination, but seems that the slum itself is a monster that cannot be tamed. Suicide is way to get out that is considered and carried out by many.My feeling while reading this book and after were of depression, hopelessness and disgust with the systems there. I disagree with this author, about writing it in third person; I felt that the book could have been more powerful if written through the eyes of the main characters. Also, because the book is so depressing, I think it would have been appropriate to have a list of agencies that are trying to do something to improve the conditions of the poor in India. These agencies exist. I recommend this book to all who are concerned about what is happening in India and warn them that the harsh realities of the slum are extremely depressing.
Hidden from the gorgeous, expensive hotels in upscale Mumbai, near the international airport, lies another world, one of extreme poverty, of squatters who build ragtag houses that could be razed at any moment, of desperate lives and, too often, needless deaths.This book is narrative non-fiction, and the author's notes about how she came to write it are very helpful. Had it been a novel, I probably would not have liked it very much because it is filled with cruelty, hopelessness, and acts that seem incomprehensible to me. The corruption that had me cringing is pervasive and accepted.As non-fiction, it is a well written book that tells remarkable stories, ones that some of us might be happier going through life never knowing. For those who think they don't like reading non-fiction, the book reads like a novel. It's a book that will stay in my mind for a very long time.A couple of quotes that especially affected me are:<I>In the West, and among some in the Indian elite, this word, </i>corruption<i>, 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.~~~The soil outside the red-and-white Air India gate was good and loamy. Gradually, with the ministrations of the airport gardening crew, a boy-sized break in the flowers filled in. One afternoon, Sunil crouched there, studying the skin of the earth. He could find no trace of damage.</i>I do recommend this excellent book because you will learn from it, and be grateful for the good things in your life, but don't expect to be lighthearted when you finish it.I was given a complimentary advance copy by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, so the quotes may have changed in the published edition.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a creative non-fiction book written by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Katherine Boo. She spent 3 years living amongst some of the world's most forgotten people in a Mumbai slum. This book is a novelized version of the things she saw and experienced.The stories she told were haunting, and more than once I had to take a break in my reading to wipe away the tears. I won't soon forget the people in this book, or the fact that they're not just characters. These are their actual lives, and their own words are used to describe those lives.I hesitate to recommend this book only because it was just overwhelmingly sad. There were virtually no bright moments in these people's lives, and certainly nothing has changed in the months since she wrote it. These are stories that need to be heard, but I know most people would rather turn away.
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