Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012) Katherine Boo
February 7, 2012 Random House Publishing Group
In her author’s note, Katherine Boo writes, “Ten years ago I fell in love with an Indian man and gained a country. He urged me not to take it at face value” (Boo, 245). Ms. Boo, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, writes a non-fiction account of life in the slums of Annawadi, India called Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Annawadi borders the international airport in Mumbai and the major trade of its inhabitants is trash collection and resale. From the beginning of the narrative, readers follow a sixteen year old Muslim named Abdul Husain, who is a veteran and adept trash collector. Abdul has helped his family survive amongst the 90,000 residents of Annawadi and they are able to build a small business from his industrious endeavors. Unfortunately, there is dissention among the residents of the slum who are packed so closely together and the Husain family has an altercation with their neighbor, Fatima or “One Leg,” a crippled woman who neglects her children and whose sole pleasures in life are the extramarital affairs she partakes in when her husband is at work. Boo also chronicles the difficult lives of other young people in the slum including: scrappy Sunil, charismatic Kapa, and Meena, a young girl of a poor caste who is regularly beaten. Machu, the only girl going to college attempts to teach the young children of the slum who lack any education. The books focuses on the effects of modern day globalization on the residents of Annawadi and depicts some of the corrupt elements of the police and politicians. Educated Manchu’s mother, Asha, is the powerful female slum lord who tries to rise above her caste and succeed in a patriarchal society. Hunger, poverty, and a daily struggle for survival pervade the piece and readers will become more aware of life in one of the most populated cities in the world. Boo states that she had previously been writing about the poorest residents of the U.S. but observed, “A lack of nonfiction on India” (Boo, 248). Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a story that will remain with readers long after the book is finished and will bring awareness to the affects of capitalism and globalization into one of the poorest regions of the globe.