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Katherine Boo Was at Powell’s Last Night

February 14, 2012

Hundreds of Portland fans showed up for the lovely Katherine Boo last night. It was her first stop of her first tour for her first book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. She told me this was not only her first reading for her book, but her first reading ever in her life, and that my book was her first to sign. Technically, it was a stamped signature because her painful rheumatoid arthritis makes it difficult for her to sign, especially for such a large crowd.

Boo began by saying that she was “scared,” but eager to talk about her book which was a “labor of love.” She spoke movingly and with eloquence about the years she spent researching the book in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai. Even though the topic was somber, Boo was upbeat as she talked about the hope she found in the Annawadi people and the commonality she found among poor people everywhere including America.

The crowd peppered her with questions which she happily answered even when one was a bit awkward. An astute person asked why there were two photo credits for the book jacket which pictures a young girl kneeling in a puddle with a backdrop of a shanty town. A photoshopped collage for a non-fiction book? Boo laughed and said, “The photo is totally doctored, because the publishers thought no one would buy it.”

At one point, she smiled and mentioned that her two personal titles for the book had been “The Shit in Between” which refers to a line from the book: “Everything around us is roses” is how Abdul’s younger brother, Mirchi, put it. “And we’re the shit in between.” The other was “Minimum City” in reference to “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found,” by Suketu Mehta.

Although she said, “Recently, I’ve had to do interviews and it’s a trauma,” Boo was charming and didn’t look even remotely nervous. If you have the chance to attend one of her readings, I would highly recommend it. The book is amazing and Boo is too!

Random House, 2012

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