Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers won the National Book Award on Wednesday. Here's a review by Anis Shivani in the Huffington Post:
Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House, 2012), a gripping work of reportage based on the three years she spent in Bombay's Annawadi slum, is a truly deserving National Book Award finalist.
Earlier in the year when I read the book, I hoped it would be in line for the major awards. I was impressed with the way Boo keeps herself out of the narrative, giving us a no-holds-barred dramatization of life in the slums, without any element of romanticization or exoticization. Boo is a staff writer for the New Yorker, married to the Indian academic Sunil Khilnani, and has previously written about poor communities in the U.S. There isn't a single jarring note as she transitions to reporting about Annawadi.
Boo's is not the only recent book in this genre. While the dominant impression from neoliberal propagandists like Thomas Friedman is that of an aspiring hegemon with a thriving middle class of more than 300 million people, and growing more powerful by the day, more honest writers have been presenting a mixed picture of the winners and losers resulting from India's high-stakes economic liberalization, a regime the country has been doggedly pursuing since the early 1990s.