We at the Washington Monthly were extremely proud to see one of our alumni, Katherine Boo, see such great success for her book about the slums of Mumbai, Behind the Beautiful Forevers (including the Colbert Bump!), and we’re equally excited to see that she has won the National Book Award for that work:
Boo’s book, set in a Mumbai slum, is the story of a boy and his harsh and illuminating education in the consequences of crime or perceived crime. The author, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist currently on staff with The New Yorker, said she was grateful for the chance to live in a world she “didn’t know” and for the chance to tell the stories of those otherwise ignored. She praised a fellow nominee and fellow Pulitzer-winning reporter, the late Anthony Shadid, for also believing in stories of those without fame or power.
Boo was chosen from one of the strongest lists of nonfiction books in memory, from the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson series to Shadid’s memoir “House of Stone.”
While I am a huge Robert Caro fan (I read his entire oeuvre over a few months recently), the selection here is correct. The genius of Boo’s book is its lyricism, brilliant sense of pace and tone, and economical use of facts. Where Caro—who is an unbelievably meticulous historian—will spin a great bit of reporting out over several pages, Boo will condense it down to a paragraph or two that hits with incredible force. The result is a book about the grimmest and least-sexy topic possible that is as gripping as a crime thriller.
So if you haven’t picked up the book, I highly recommend it, and a hearty congratulations to Kate for a well-earned prize!