Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Life, Death, and Hope in A Mumbai Undercity

Downloadable Audiobook - 2012
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"Inspiring . . . extraordinary . . . [Katherine Boo] shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care."-- People

"A tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece."--Judges, PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award

ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times * The Washington Post * O: The Oprah Magazine * USA Today * New York * The Miami Herald * San Francisco Chronicle * Newsday

In this breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.

As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees "a fortune beyond counting" in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi's "most-everything girl," might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century's hidden worlds--and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.

WINNER OF: The PEN Nonfiction Award * The Los Angeles Times Book Prize * The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award * The New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book Award

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker * People * Entertainment Weekly * The Wall Street Journal * The Boston Globe * The Economist * Financial Times * Foreign Policy * The Seattle Times * The Nation * St. Louis Post-Dispatch * The Denver Post * Minneapolis Star Tribune * The Week * Kansas City Star * Slate * Publishers Weekly
Publisher: New York : Books on Tape, 2012
ISBN: 9780307934086
Characteristics: 1 sound file (8 hr., 15 min., 59 sec.) :,digital
Additional Contributors: Malhotra, Sunil

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Dec 23, 2018

Few of us would ever have the opportunity (or the desire) to spend time chronicling the daily lives of Indian slum dwellers. By doing so, Katherine Boo has done society a service. While Behind the Beautiful Forevers is overwhelmingly sad, it also speaks to the great tenacity of the human spirit in the face of considerable odds.

Boo's own commentary at the end of the book was insightful. A question that arose quickly for me was why residents of Annawadi and other slums don't band together to fight for joint causes that would benefit their whole group. Boo notes that the extremely poor are largely unwilling to give one another a hand up because to do so likely would mean their own families wouldn't eat. Government money and foreign charity funds designated to help the most impoverished dribbles away in bribes and corrupt practices. Boo's commentary says, "But the slum dwellers rarely got mad together--not even about the airport authority. Instead, powerless individuals blamed other powerless individuals for what they lacked. Sometimes they tried to destroy one another." This perspective is vividly illustrated in the book's central story - a family wrongly accused of driving a neighbor to self-immolation.

Is there hope for those who live in Mumbai's undercity? If there is hope for real change, it isn't clear how it would happen. It is clear that change, whether or not it could ever be a reality, will be a long time coming.

Mar 02, 2018

Well written and shocking to hear this true story of the underbelly of India. The author is a journalist who lived in the one of the largest slums with the dwellers to write it over a period of 3 or 4 years. The rule of law is NOT the rule of law in places like India and much of the world.
Characters are so interesting, poverty certainly doesn't limit their life experience.
They are so resourceful and I applaud them.

Recommend it.

Feb 06, 2017

The reading of this book is exceptionally good! Accents are imputed to various individuals and the narrated parts are given inflections and tones that are just right. The work itself can make one angry, despondent, helpless, fascinated (in a way), and inspires all of the virtuous feelings and grants a clearer visions of both evil in the world and noble ends (justice).

TSCPL_Librarian_Deb Jun 20, 2016

I would have sworn I was listening to a novel as I followed the saga of Abdul, a “trash-picker”, and his neighbors–all of whom live in Annawadi, a slum that sits right next to the airport in Mumbai, India. But there really is an Abdul, and there really was a one-legged woman named Fatima that lived next door to him. The bare facts of their life stories–a conflict that leads to a fiery death and an unjust imprisonment–are compelling enough. But the way the story is told–with vivid descriptions of the events and thoughts of the people involved, and with their own words–brings it to life in a way that usually only seems to happen in novels.

But this isn’t fiction, it’s real, and falling in love with the characters and wanting them to succeed in finding “the full enjoy” of life comes with a price. That price is seeing how the cruel realities of life often interfere with hopes and dreams. Even Manju, the best and brightest of Annawadi’s teenagers, faces maddening obstacles as she strives to become the first Annawadian to graduate from college. She teaches the children of the slum rudimentary classes in English–but some of those children will fall prey to disease, drugs, hunger, or the violence of the street and never make it to adulthood, much less to a life outside of the slum. And all the while, the presence of the hotel and nearby airport are felt acutely by the residents, who not only take advantage of the refuse that they leave behind but also observe lavish parties and feel threatened by a possible airport expansion that could leave them without even the Annawadi slum to call home.

I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in the human condition. It is a powerful read that will inform you of the social realities of our modern world–but it will feel like you are doing nothing more than reading a novel at times. If you listen to the audiobook version like I did you also to hear it wonderfully narrated by Sunil Malhotra who does a wonderful job giving each person a distinctive and fitting voice (not to mention effortlessly saying all of those Indian words that I would trip over). Another bonus is an interview with the author on the last CD in which you get to hear more about how she conducted the extensive research it took for her to write this moving story. This would also be an excellent choice for book discussion groups who could discuss how it gives us insight on our modern world and how reading about the various struggles of the people profiled affected them.

Dec 03, 2013

I listened to the audiobook and the reader is very, very good. This is beautifully written. However, it was so sad at times that I had to take several breaks during the narration.

JCLKimG May 06, 2013

This is a sobering read about poverty and humanity in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai. This book is part of the required reading in many Johnson County Community College Composition classes. Sunil Malhotra does an excellent job narrating this audiobook.

Mar 18, 2013

A very good book. I think it would have been better to read than listen to as an audiobook

christyspencer Jun 01, 2012

A painful but accurate portrayal of slum-life. This book is an excellent window into the culture, reality and needs of the people. She makes no attempt to provide solutions, sway the audience or romanticize anything. Her epilogue is insightful and I appreciate her integrity in careful and unbiased research.

Cdnbookworm Apr 15, 2012

This nonfiction book is a tale of the lives of the residents of a Mumbai slum, Annawadi, located near the Mumbai airport and near luxury hotels. Boo was inspired to tell about life in the slums after marrying a man from India. She picked Annawadi because of its size, one small enough to go around and talk to all the residents. Her research took three years and the lives of many of the residents change significantly during that time. We see the struggle to survive, the daily living conditions, the jealousies and rivalries, the corruption both between residents and at police and government levels. Money equals prosperity and everyone is trying to get ahead, and get a better life. Some use substances that help them escape from their lives, and some take it out on their families. Boo spends a lot of time here describing two families.
One is a Muslim family, where the father has health issues that force the oldest boy, Abdul into the role of family provider. The situation also forces the mother into a less subservient role that is typical of Muslim women. The family recycles garbage, paying other garbage collectors by weight for their gatherings. When a fight with a neighbour women results in drastic actions by the women, the family's creep upward is stalled and reversed.
The other Hindi family also has a strong women at the head, Asha. Asha sets her sights on politics, with the first step gaining the status of slumlord for Annawadi. She curries favors, accepts and pays bribes, settles disputes and makes enough to send her daughter to college.
An ongoing story that brings the existence of the lowest class in India to light and shows how the system doesn't work for them, and how they are viewed by those above.
Fascinating and heartrending.

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christyspencer Jun 01, 2012

christyspencer thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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