Carrie's Reviews > Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
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's review
Jan 10, 2013

it was amazing
Read in January, 2013

This is a must-read book that will break your heart. It is the best written and impeccably reported piece of narrative nonfiction I've ever read.

Boo's year's of reporting on poverty in American cities give her perspective that blunts what could otherwise be a book by a foreign journalist coming to gawk at poverty porn in another "exotic" locale; the problems she writes about are both universal and particular.

This book left me with better understanding of inequality but also hopelessness. Perhaps in some ways that is the point. It is our faith in the easy platitude, the neat solution, the feel-good ending that blunts our ability to tackle the things that are just really effing hard.

The take-away in summed up in one of the few passages near the end where Boo goes outside of her sources' perspectives to look big on it all:

"What was unfolding in Mumbai was unfolding elsewhere, too. In the age of global market capitalism, hopes and grievances were narrowly conceived, which blunted a sense of common predicament. Poor people didn't unite; they competed ferociously amongst themselves for gains as slender as they were provisional. And this undercity strife created only the faintest ripple in the fabric of the society at large. The gates of the rich, occasionally rattled, remained unbreached. The politicians held forth on the middle class. The poor tore down one another, and the world's great, unequal cities soldiered on in relative peace."

Journalism students should take care to read the author's note and try to learn from her exhaustive methods and dedication.

Thanks Drew for the gift!

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