National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2012
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption.
With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter – Annawadi’s “most-everything girl” – will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a 15-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy”. But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal.
As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.