Saturday, June 9, 2012

Card Catalogue: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

I haven't done a book review post in awhile because, well, I haven't been reading as much as I'd like to.  But in the last two weeks I started and finished a fantastic new read.  It was so good, I'm having a hard time starting something new for fear it won't measure up.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo is a nonfiction book about the "undercity" of Mumbai -- particularly one slum and its inhabitants.

^via
Katherine Boo does for Indian nonfiction what Rohinton Mistry did for Indian fiction [for me] with A Fine Balance.  As a person of Indian descent who has visited India, I've always been aware of the slums in India, but have never read a nonfiction account of life in the "undercity."  I've always felt that India is so acutely divided by haves and have-nots, but this poignant book really takes that to another level.  After reading BTBF, I was both amazed at the lives of the slumdwellers and ashamed that I had not taken notice of those same lives in a more substantial way.  India's big cities truly cannot run without these people who are essentially invisible to both the wealthy and the government.

Boo's writing captivated me by giving such a thorough depiction of life in Annawadi, a Mumbai slum, that I had to remind myself this wasn't a fabricated story.  I really felt like I "knew" the characters in this book, and my heart ached along with theirs as they lived through such poverty and hardship that I can't even imagine.  The hardest part of this book was seeing how corrupt India actually is.  My first instinct was to research charitable organizations to somehow help the people of the slums, but after reading Boo carefully point out that even the "Western" charities didn't follow through with their aid, I'm really at a loss of what I can do from here.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes anthropological studies, but also loves a really well written story.  At no point was I bored or tired of this book. Definitely a top contender for my best book of 2012.

What have you read lately?  Suggestions would be much appreciated as I'm at a loss of what to read now.

1 comments:

Claire Kiefer June 11, 2012 at 2:06 AM  

Now I want to read this, as I take book recommendations from you very seriously! I can't really offer the same, as I've been reading so much for work that I can't help but read essentially meaningless drivel in my spare time (to balance out the gravity). But speaking of books for work, I would confidently recommend any Voice of Witness book! Compelling oral histories, which I think are one of the most crucial elements to any place/issue/etc.

xoxoxox!

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