Last night, Katherine Boo spoke to a packed Brookens Auditorium audience about the issues raised by her book Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the challenges that she faced in the four years that she gathered the stories and the information for the book, and the ethical framework that guided her work. The lecture was augmented by a slide show of photographs of Annawadi residents going about their daily lives in the shadow of the luxury hotels that ringed the slum.
Declaring that “better policies might get made if we know more about individual lives,” she explained why she spent four years in Annawadi gathering the stories told in her book. Her meticulous reporting is reflected in the way the people of Annawadi come to life in all their complexity—not merely as symbols of poverty in India of the effects of globalization.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Boo’s first book, garnered the National Book Award for nonfiction and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It was chosen as the inaugural book for the “One Book, One UIS” community reading series because the committee felt that its themes resonated with the values of our campus. About the lecture, Vice-Chancellor for Undergraduate Affairs Karen Moranski said, “Boo’s presentation was a model ECCE event…she analyzed her project in a way that made clear the relevance of the book for our students…”
Thanks to all of the people who helped make the entire series—course adoptions, reading groups, a panel, and last night’s event—a success. People are already asking members of the committee about the next book. We plan to offer the “One Book” series every other year, so stay tuned for the fall of 2015!