The Stillwater Public Library’s “Let’s Talk About, It” (LTAI) readers will hear from an expert in Postcolonial Studies on Aug. 10 at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Nyla Ali Khan will visit the library to serve as the scholar for “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” by Katherine Boo. Khan will discuss the author, themes in the book, as well as many of the cultural and socio-economic issues in India.
The LTAI program features books that highlight civil rights issues. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is the fourth book in the series. Readers do not have to read all of the books to attend. Each LTAI program includes a presentation by a humanities scholar, small group discussions about the book and refreshments.
According to series materials, Boo’s book tells the true story of a family who lives in the slums of Mumbai, India, taking the discussion of civil rights into an international context. The family’s home stands in sight of the city’s luxury hotels, and the income inequality gaps ebb and flow along with the global economy. Its unfolding raises questions about justice, corruption, opportunity, economic progress and gentrification, and discrimination based on religion, caste, and gender.
According to Khan, Boo paints an accurate picture of Mumbai.
“The unbridgeable gulf between the rich and the poor is very accurate,” said Khan. “Over the years, political and social turmoil has been generated in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, by the forces of religious fundamentalism and by an exclusionary nationalism that undermines the multiculturalism that is part of the Indian spirit. These forces are responsible for economic deprivation, political anarchy, lack of infrastructure, repression of women and mass displacements.”
Khan believes that, in some ways, Boo’s portrait of Mumbai reflects some of the turmoil here in the U.S.
“Disillusionment of those who don’t have access to avenues of economic advancement and social mobility and an ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor has led to frustration with the establishment and elitist politicians,” said Khan. “The absolute urgency of reviving economic growth and opportunities for people across the board is undeniable, but that cannot be accomplished at the cost of cultural diversity.”
Khan is a native of Kashmir, India, and author of two critically acclaimed books, “The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism,” in which she critiques the nostalgic support of subversive elements by the affluent diaspora from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and “Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan,” which examine the seminal spiritual and political role of women in Kashmir, while also highlighting the plight of Kashmir generally as a gnarled bone of contention between India and Pakistan.
Most recently Khan edited a major anthology, “The Parchment of Kashmir: History, Society, and Polity,” which develops an unparalleled understanding of the region’s culture, resilience and fate as political pawn.
Khan came to the U.S. in 1998 for her Ph.D. in Postcolonial Studies at the University of Oklahoma. She and is teaching four classes on Writing, Composition, and Critical thinking at Rose State College in the fall.
Khan also was recently made a member of the Advisory Council of the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women.
The “Let’s Talk About It” programs are free and open to the public. Copies of “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” are available to borrow at the Help Desk. For more information, visit the Stillwater Public Library web site at library.stillwater.org or call 405-372-3633.
Books, services, and other materials for this series are provided by Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma, a project of Oklahoma Humanities. Funding for this series was provided by grants from the Inasmuch Foundation and Kirkpatrick Family Fund. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of Oklahoma Humanities.
The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. (the corner of Duck and 12th Ave.).