Friday, August 03, 2012

Friday Books: Slums

It is Friday evening, and I did manage to finish my book a couple of hours ago, so I can still squeeze in the review and call it on time for Friday Books. I read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.

This book was fascinating.. terrible and wonderful at the same time. It is about people who live in a slum in Mumbai, India. Their lives are full of turmoil, scrabbling for enough money to eat from day to day. Most of them sort garbage for a living; their slum is basically a garbage heap with open sewers.

In the midst of this are people you will grow to love. Some are depressed and feel hopeless. Others have hope to better themselves and life for their children. Everywhere around them churn poverty (to a depth most of us have never seen), corruption, crime, and dangers.

I didn't realize until the author's notes at the end that everything in the book really happened. Even the names are true names. The author interviewed and followed the lives of several families over three years and got to know them so well that she even correctly portrayed their thoughts, innermost feelings, and the evolution of those thoughts as they grew and experienced poorer-than-poor life in the shadows of wealth. It's an absolutely amazing look into poverty, how it affects people, and how our societal and class systems encourage the existence of the poverty/wealth dichotomy.

This story takes place in India, but the same issues play out in the Western world. It would behoove us to learn more about our policies and how they work and/or don't work. There is a whole world out there that most of us know nothing about.

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