I can’t imagine being hungry. Or living in the streets. Or living in a world where that’s the norm — where entire villages subsist on rubbish cast aside by people like you and me. It’s uncomfortable to think about how good we have it, when we realize that everyday we’re turning a blind eye to poverty and hunger and death.
I see March, much like I expect Behind the Beautiful Forevers to be, as a masked attempt at spring — a veil of hope set atop a crude exterior to mask its ugliness. Such is the caste system in India.
Katherine Boo‘s first book — a nonfiction narrative about an undercity in Mumbai — sounds as though it takes on the difficult task of painting a society, a culture, a world…in such a way that calls out injustices while respecting the traditions from which they came. That tension is a necessary evil for people who dare to venture out of their comfort zones, and in the end, it makes us wiser.
My one take-away from teaching in Harlem was that I walked away feeling more bewildered, frustrated and unable to help than I had when I’d started. Learning a new culture takes a lifetime, and even if you learn all there is to know, change has to come from within.
I hope this Kate Escape Book Club read for March makes me as uncertain of my understanding of Mumbai society as teaching in Harlem did. Luckily for me, it won’t last a full year and I don’t have to wait for the bell to take a break.
What do you think you know — or know that you don’t know — about India?
What are you looking forward to learning about in this nonfiction narrative about slums in India?
What have your experiences been with Indian society, if any?
What other pictures of India have we gotten as a culture and how do you think this journalistic portrayal will match up?
How do you personify March?