Ready for an almost about-face from The Secret Garden? The Pulitzer prize winning Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo fits the bill! One of the best parts of summer is reading! And while this may not be a beach book, we have the time this month to kick up our feet and settle down with this rich book.
If you haven’t heard about it before, here is how BookBrowse summarizes it:
In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter – Annawadi’s “most-everything girl” – will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”
But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.
With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.
Since this is a recent book that’s won several prestigious prizes, we have the advantage of hearing Katherine Boo share about Behind the Beautiful Forevers. I love hearing a bit about why an author got interested in a subject and what went into her book. This video is fairly short (and I’ll warn you it end abruptly), but it should get you excited about the book! And if you’re reading this in an email you can click here to watch the video
Because this takes place in a community, it might be easy to get lost in all of the names. But have no fear! Wikipedia has a helpful list and brief description of people mentioned in the book. It might be helpful to print it out (or at least know you can refer to it!).
We’re going to do the book club a little differently since it’s summer =).
July 8th — intro to the book and back ground info (that’s today!)
July 15th — short quotation or thought
July 22nd — short quotation or thought
July 29th — we’ll have the main discussion at the end of the month.
Katherine spent three years in Annawadi and used ethnographic interview style to gather information. As such, she tries to capture the real sense of how people speak, think, and believe using their own words. So, some of the language may be a bit saltier than you or I would use in daily life. I don’t believe it is so salty we can’t benefit from the book, but I did want to warn you, that at times, unredeemed people speak like … unredeemed people.
In your context, how prevalent are slums or beggars? In what ways to you see hope in the face of such overwhelming poverty? What are you looking forward to when it come to this book?
See you in the comments!
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