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Katherine Boo On Life, Death And Hope In Mumbai

Steve Scher
02/23/2012 at 10:00 a.m.

Life, Death And Hope In Mumbai: Annawaddi is a slum next door to the Mumbai airport. It was started by workers from another Indian state after they had finished a contracting job. The prospects of more jobs at the glittering airport and the nearby hotels seemed promising. Now, the off–kilter shacks next to a lake of sewage are full of people struggling to carve out a meager existence. Many collect the trash from the other city, the city of the growing middle class of the "New" India. The most enterprising among them are the ones who are either very smart about the value of the trash, are thieves or make a living exploiting the marginally poorer. Through it all, some hold on to the values of right and wrong, but it is very hard going — and most can't afford what seems like a luxury.

'Rez Life:' David Treuer traps beavers and harvests rice when he is back home at Leech Lake, the Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota where he grew up. He keeps a cabin there, where he stays with his wife and three children. He is anchored by the reservation and has written about the place and the people in a new book. "Rez Life" is also about the larger reservation system in America, a system that Treuer re–defines. He sees the reservation as a reserve, a place where people can nourish their culture and traditions, where family is connected by land and history to one another. Treuer says the reservation can be a sad place, or a happy one, but it shouldn't be seen as a tragic place. Reservations in America are not a flaw of history, he says, but a repository with a future.

Recommended Eating: Looking for a place to go out to eat this weekend? Food writer Bethany Jean Clement of The Stranger offers a suggestion.


Katherine Boo is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and a former reporter and editor for The Washington Post. Her first book is "Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity."

David Treuer is the author of three novels and a book of literary criticism. His writing has appeared in Esquire, Granta and The Los Angeles Times. He is a Pushcart Prize winner and he won the Minnesota Book Award. He is a professor of literature and creative writing at USC and divides his time between Los Angeles and Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota.

Bethany Jean Clement is the restaurant reviewer and managing editor for The Stranger.

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