“[Boo] is among the most influential journalists writing about contemporary social conditions… Her extended profiles of individuals struggling at the invisible margins of society open a powerful journalistic window into the obstacles faced by many.”
—From the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant Citation
Over 25 years as a journalist, Katherine Boo has established herself as a fearless, honest writer dedicated to telling the stories of the poor and the overlooked in writing that crackles with novelistic intensity. Hailed as a “giant of narrative journalism” by the New York Times Review of Books, she is a contributing writer for The New Yorker and a former reporter and editor for the Washington Post. Boo’s reporting from disadvantaged communities in the United States and abroad has earned her a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Genius Grant, and a National Magazine Award for Feature Writing.
Boo’s book Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a New York Times bestseller, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is the dramatic, heartbreaking, unforgettable story of families striving toward a better life in Mumbai. In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, Boo illuminates a bewildering age of global transformation and inequality.
“There is a lot to like about this book: the prodigious research that it is built on, distilled so expertly that we hardly notice how much we are being taught; the graceful and vivid prose that never calls attention to itself; and above all, the true and moving renderings of the people of the Mumbai slum called Annawadi. Garbage pickers and petty thieves, victims of gruesome injustice—Ms. Boo draws us into their lives, and they do not let us go. This is a superb book.”
—Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains and Strength in What Remains
Behind the Beautiful Forevers details life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and its residents, who are electric with hope for a prosperous future. The narrative follows key residents: Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, who sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away; Asha, a woman of formidable wit who has identified an alternate route to the middle class in the form of political corruption; and her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—who is expected to become its first female college graduate. Even the poorest Annawadians believe they are inching closer to the good life—the 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. Elle called Boo’s work “a jaw-dropping achievement, an instant classic of narrative nonfiction . . . With a cinematic intensity . . . Boo transcends and subverts every cliché, cynical or earnest, that we harbor about Indian destitution and gazes directly into the hearts, hopes, and human promise of vibrant people whom you’ll not soon forget.”
Behind the Beautiful Forevers is “reported like Watergate, written like Great Expectations, and handily the best international nonfiction in years,” concluded New York magazine, while the judges’ citation for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award called the book “both a tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.” Behind the Beautiful Forevers was one of 10 books President Obama recommended for future world leaders. It was also adapted for the stage by the National Theatre.
Boo is currently working on her next book, an exploration of social mobility in low-income families that draws on years of intimate reporting in African-American neighborhoods in Washington, DC.