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Award-winner Katherine Boo speaks on reporting and social injustice

Award-winning author and journalist Katherine Boo brought the harsh realities of inequality from Annawadi, India to Bowling Green on Tuesday night.

Students, community members and faculty came together in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom to hear the Common Read presentation that was based around Boo’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”

Attendants were given the chance to listen to Boo speak about the investigative journalism she did in Annawadi, a slum located in the shadow of the luxurious Mumbai airport.

John Fischer, vice provost for academic affairs, gave the opening remarks and was followed by President Mary Ellen Mazey, who touched on the importance of the reading.

“The Common Read gave us an international sensation we will never forget,” she said before introducing Boo to the stage.

As Boo spoke, pictures and video taken of her time in the slum were shown.

Journalists do not typically cover the stories of individuals in such poverty, and she said she spent years trying to get Indian journalists to cover the topic. When no one else did so, she decided to begin reporting.

Her goal is to help audiences understand what the inequalities in areas like Annawadi with fewer resources for success.

Although her work and emotional experience has not been easy, Boo said that “it takes wanting to really know what’s going on” that makes the biggest change.

Those who attended the event were able to experience the poverty and injustice taking place in Annawadi thanks to Boo’s visuals and storytelling.

“I liked how honest her beginnings were,” sophomore Michaela Schrum said. “It makes a difference when someone starts something just ‘because,’ and someone who believes in what they are doing, and strives to be more empathetic.”

Boo showed no fear as she described her four years of reporting on a society that, as our economy grew, was only falling apart.

“My agent said everyone is going to find reasons not to to read this book,” Boo said.

But, after years of reporting, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” was published in 2012, earning her a Pulitzer Prize for the National Book Award and placed in the New York Times top ten book reviews.

While reporting, Boo said she had to consider the ethics involved to keep the integrity of her story.

“I am always thinking about the very fine line between me and the people I write about,” Boo said when talking about her experience reporting in Annawadi, interviewing families, societies and the police for records for instability.

She also explained how rich economies profit off of Annawadi’s poverty to create less competition.

“I want to emphasize to the young people in the room that your life is not a value,” she said. “I am here to tell you guys that ideas trickle down faster than wealth.”

During a question and answer session, an audience member asked Boo how much education would affect the children in Annawadi, to which she replied, “It would break the world.”

After Boo answered questions from audience members, Fischer brought the event to a close, thanking the audience for attending, while Boo held a book signing soon after.

“I think her work is very important and inspiring and I am glad she came to BGSU,” said graduate student Sophie Schoenberg.

Currently, Boo is doing more investigative journalism in the United States that she cannot reveal just yet, but plans to release in the future.

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