By Chris Dettro
Posted Mar. 9, 2014 @ 8:57 pm
Those who participated in the University of Illinois Springfield’s “One Book, One UIS” initiative last fall may want to refresh their memories. Katherine Boo, author of the award-winning book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” is speaking at UIS April 1 after having been unable to appear last fall during the group book-read.
The concept of a community reading project originated with the Washington Center for the Book in the late 1990s. The idea is to bring together people from varied backgrounds through the reading and discussion of a common book. Jane Treadwell, UIS librarian and dean of library instructional services, came up with the idea for the “one book” initiative at UIS.
She solicited ideas from the Friends of Brookens Library and the campus and Springfield communities before deciding on Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.” The book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2012, was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, and appeared on many best-book lists that year.
The book follows several inhabitants of Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai, India, that sits in the shadows of luxury hotels and the international airport. Boo examined the lives of four of these residents as the global economic downturn in 2008 and 2009 added to the tensions that already existed over issues of religion, caste and gender. Her portraits provide insight into globalization at the personal level.
Boo is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine and a former reporter and editor for The Washington Post. Over the years, her reporting from disadvantaged communities has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur “genius” grant and a National Magazine Award for feature writing.
Panel discussions and other activities were held in conjunction with “One Book, One UIS” last year, and Boo was scheduled to be a guest and speak at the keynote event on Oct. 7. However, a health problem made it impossible for her to travel last fall.
Boo’s appearance has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. April 1 in Brookens Auditorium on the lower level of Brookens Library. The event is free and open to the public. “We were hoping to have her here for Women’s History Month (March) because she often writes about strong women,” Treadwell said. “We almost made it.” Treadwell said she hopes people who participated in “One Book, One UIS” will come to hear Boo speak in the smaller venue that doesn’t require reservations. The event was scheduled last fall in Sangamon Auditorium.
The “One Book, One UIS” initiative is being coordinated by Brookens Library and is supported by funding from Friends of Brookens Library, the Chancellor’s Office, the Diversity Center and the ECCE Speakers Series.