From the very first chapter, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
was a book I didn't want to read. It was too depressing, too frightening, a book that makes you mad. It is the true story of life in a makeshift settlement on land near the Mumbai airport in India. The settlement is called Annawadi. The main characters include Abdul, a Muslim teen, who makes his living on other peoples garbage (he has been accused of setting fire to Fatima, a one legged neighbor woman), Asha, a woman trying to get to the top via political corruption who wants her daughter to become Annawadi's first female college graduate and Kalul, a scrap iron thief.
The description of how the children scavenged for garbage and the risks they took (many places were well guarded or had high fences) was unimaginable. There's an election in which only women are eligible to run, but even when one does it doesn't make a difference. Her employer actually runs the show in her name. Orphanages accept clothing at the front door and then sell it out the back door.
Katherine Boo, the author, is a reporter married to an Indian man. She spent more than twenty years reporting on poor communities in the United States before going to India to research this book. The conditions here are deplorable and so are the people who run things. Corruption is everywhere. The upside to the story is how enterprising these poor people can be in order to survive. An eye opening look into the underbelly of another land.
Submitted by Lynn @ Center Street