“Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” Concludes with ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ Nov. 1

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

by Katherine Boo

The Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma book discussion series at Oklahoma City University Wraps up this fall with Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in OCU’s Walker Center Room 151.

The discussion series is titled “Civil Rights and Equality: A Pulitzer Prize Centennial Series” and is made possible through a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the Pulitzer Foundation’s Centennial Campfire Initiative.

Who could know that the 2008 U.S. mortgage crisis that sent our economy into a tailspin would affect the income opportunities for trash recyclers living in impromptu slum housing across the globe? Boo’s book tells the true story of a family who lives in the slums of Mumbai, India, taking the discussion of civil rights into an international context. The family’s home stands in sight of the city’s luxury hotels, and the income inequality gaps ebb and flow along with the global economy.

Based on ethnographic research and extensive interviews with residents of Mumbai’s shanty neighborhoods, Boo’s descriptions of the people and settings are compelling, full of pathos and honesty about the ugliness of struggling for survival as well as the small glimmers of happiness available to anyone with the right outlook. The community comes to life through her rich storytelling, particularly the central plot element of the Husain family’s embroilment in a crime they did not commit. Its unfolding raises questions about justice, corruption, opportunity, economic progress and gentrification, and discrimination based on religion, caste, and gender.

Reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers teaches us much about another culture, but also forces us to reflect on relative privilege and raises questions about parallel issues in our culture: to what extent are societies connected and indebted to one another in an increasingly shrinking world?

At each session in the five-part series, a humanities scholar makes a presentation on the book in the context of the theme. For this book, our speaker will be Dr. Amrita Sen. Small group discussions follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, all participants come together for a brief wrap-up.

While all books to loan in this series have been checked out, members of the Oklahoma City-area community are welcome to bring their own copies of the book and join the conversation.

For more information call 405-208-5707, or e-mail filmlit@okcu.edu