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BGSU Common Experience 2015-16: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: About the Book

A collection of resources about the 2015-16 Common Experience book selection "Behind the Beautiful Forevers"

About the Book


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.


An Introduction

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

One key consideration when examining Behind the Beautiful Forevers is to understand that Katherine Boo approaches the book as a journalist examining how one side of India, the more affluent middle to upper class, moves towards economic growth while some of its poorest inhabitants remain in desperate poverty. Boo relied upon interviews, records, video recordings, and spent several months with the Annawadians to capture their unique stories at a given time in history, but she never attempts, nor intends, to engage in an all encompassing academic exploration the way a dedicated body of career scholars might. Instead, her point is to demonstrate how such disparities can, and do, exist even in times of proclaimed prosperity. Boo offers her audience a snapshot, powerful in the way that it asks the audience to focus on the circumstances and many themes depicted in the book as they relate to so many places around the world. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is not to be examined as a journal article or a textbook, but rather as an experience, an invitation to live alongside the Annawadians during a pivotal point in their lives and interpret the material as it applies to our independent fields.

Publication Information

Name: behind the beautiful forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Paperback: 288 pages

  • Random House
  • 081297932X
  • 978-0812979329


Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism 2013

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award 2013

National Book Award 2012

National Book Critics Award-finalist 2013

10 Best Books The New York Times Review 2012

National Book Critics Circle Award 2012

Los Angeles Times Book Prize-current interest 2012

Guardian First Book Award-short list 2012

Samuel Johnson Prize-short list 2012

Salon What to Read Awards 2012

Amazon Best Seller: India History