Katherine Boo

We are delighted to welcome Katherine Boo to the Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2017.

Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2017 Author - Katherine Boo.

Katherine Boo is the pulitzer prize wining staff writer at The New Yorker and editor for The Washington Post, whose reporting on disadvantaged communities has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, and a National Magazine Award for Feature Writing.

Katherine’s work focuses on issues of poverty, social and economic policy, and education.

She has spent the last 25 years reporting from within poor communities, considering how societies distribute opportunity and how individuals get out of poverty.

“I think I grew up with a healthy respect for volatility, all the things you can’t control, … I became aware of the ways in which people who write about the disadvantaged often underestimate its psychological contours, the uncertainty … economic or whatever.” – Katherine Boo.

In 2000, her series for the Washington Post about group homes for intellectually disabled people won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service (One of the fourteen American Pulitzer Prizes annually awarded for journalism).

For the last decade, Katherine has divided her time between the United States and India, the birthplace of her husband, historian Sunil Khilnani, when she wrote and published her first book, the highly acclaimed “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity”.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers - A Novel by Katherine Boo - FGLF 2017.

‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity’ (2012) won the National Book Award for Nonfiction (2012); the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2012); The American Academy of Arts & Letters Award in Literature; New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism (2013); the PEN/Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction (2013); the Book-of-the-Month Club New Visions Award and Oldie Travel Writer of the Year (UK).

‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity’ reads almost like a novel: a true-life version of “Slumdog Millionaire” without the Bollywood ending. The book takes us into the world of a present-day slum of India, named Annawadi, located in the shadow of the Mumbai International Airport, a world within a world where everyone fights not for power or celebrity … but a chance.

Katherine spent more than three years meticulously documenting the interconnected lives in Annawadi and reveals the inner lives and everyday injustices facing India’s slumdwellers – a community struggling for survival amidst the economic boom unfolding around them, in the the heart of one of the 21st century’s great ‘unequal cities’.

“There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them” – Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Journalist).

‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity’ has been published in more than 30 languages.

‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity’ was shortly adapted into a play by David Hare in 2014, and performed at the National Theatre of Great Britain Live in 2015.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers was performed on stage starring Fairway Galle Literary Festival Alumni Meera Syal. The play was broadcast live to more than 550 cinemas across the UK on March 12 2015, which included a scene when 1,000 pounds of plastic waste was dumped on the stage and a moment when a one-legged woman lights herself on fire.

Syal, who has spent her life portraying second-generation Asians in British TV programmes such as ‘Goodness Gracious Me’, plays a Muslim matriarch with nine children whose sick husband can no longer run the family recycling business.

“Powerful storytelling has a better chance of thwacking people in the solar plexus and people are more likely to want to effect change if they are affected emotionally rather than intellectually … a good play can get to a part of you that a thousand political speeches might not.” – Meera Syal.

For the families of Annawadi, the attention has helped them reach some of their goals. Katherine has commented that “There’s more water in the slum, for instance … harassment by the police may have waned because of a sense that illegal activity might be documented and exposed”.

“There’s still an active crisis of public health, public justice, and educational opportunity” in Mumbai’s slums, she said. “Families can still make progress in this context, but it’s a hell of a lot harder than it ought to be.” – Katherine Boo

Katherine has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2003.

Since her late teens Ms. Boo, who is now in her late 40’s, has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and several related immunological disorders. She walks a little slowly and sometimes has trouble with her eyes. Her fingers are gnarled and bent. That she is still able to type is owing in large part to a 2002 MacArthur grant, which helped pay for surgery on her right hand.

Katherine Boo at FGLF 2017

Do not miss is this opportunity to meet Katheirne at the FGLF 2017 and chat about her experience in researching and writing this impactful novel.