Behind the Beautiful Forevers {Katherine Boo}

At school, sometimes I’ll pop into the bookstore–aka Barnes & Noble College–and, after breathing in the scent of over-priced college gear, will meander towards the tables stacked with popular and/or new titles.

The tables are always a cornucopia of intriguing or amusing reads, but since I can’t (and I won’t) buy every book that I fancy, I end up taking photos of the covers to remind myself to check out the books from the library…for free! 🙂

Behind the Beautiful Forevers first captured me with the heartbreaking yet hopeful photograph that graced the cover. Then the title: beautiful forevers? What’s a beautiful forever? Of course, the last component in the persuasive package was the fact that Boo received a Pulitzer Prize for the work. So, I checked it out from the library and used my first few days of summer to read it.

I’m going to highly recommend it. Boo takes years of social science research (I believe she worked on this from 2007-2011) and synthesizes her witness of events, accounts of Annawadi slum dwellers, and official documents to paint a compelling, tragic, hopeful picture of “life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity.”  Though everything in the book is 100% non-fiction, her book reads like a narrative, drawing in readers with experiences, laced with only just-enough bigger world context and statistics, but remains almost entirely focused on the few central figures, bringing their tragedies, aspirations, and desperation to the center of the stage. Exploring themes of agency, identity, and power, amongst many others, Behind the Beautiful Forevers makes the plight of millions a personal, comprehensible, and horrifying experience.

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