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Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars Paperback – August 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857861697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857861696
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,928,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'Beautiful Thing is a brilliant debut that catapults Sonia Faleiro straight to the top of the premier division of Indian writers of non-fiction ... Beautiful Thing opens up a hidden world with startling insight and intimacy, and strangely is both a tragic monument to the abused bar girls of Bombay and a celebration of their amazing resilience and spirit.' - William Dalrymple, author of Nine Lives 'Faleiro writes her way into the bloodstream with this mesmeric book, fashioned with heart and enviable acuity. A shocking, funny and memorable ride.' - Nikita Lalwani, author of Gifted 'A rare glimpse into dismissed lives. Sonia Faleiro brings a novelist's eye for detail and a depth of empathy to her work. This is a magnificent book of reportage that is also endowed with all the terror and beauty of art.' - Kiran Desai, Booker prize-winning author of The Inheritance of Loss '... With her we hear, we see, we feel and finally know the world behind that door: a world that was unimaginable before Faleiro drew us there, but is unforgettable when the last page is turned, the last beaded curtain drawn to a close.' - Gregory David Roberts, author of Shantaram

About the Author

Sonia Faleiro is an award-winning reporter and writer. She is the author of a book of fiction, The Girl, and a contributor to numerous anthologies, including AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India. She has reported for publications such as India Today and Tehelka, and is now a contributing editor with Vogue. Sonia was born in Goa, studied in Edinburgh and lives in San Francisco. She is working on her second book of non-fiction. www.soniafaleiro.com

More About the Author

Sonia Faleiro is an award-winning writer. She is the author of a book of fiction, The Girl (2006) and one book of non-fiction, Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars (2010).
The New York Times hailed Beautiful Thing as 'an intimate and valuable piece of reportage that will break your heart several times over.' The book was an Economist, Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, and Observer Book of the Year, CNN's Mumbai Book of the Year and a Time Out Subcontinental Book of the Year. It was The Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year 2011 and one of NPR's Five Best Travel Memoirs of 2012.
Beautiful Thing has been published worldwide and translated into several languages including Hindi, French, Polish, Swedish and Dutch.
Sonia's writing appears in The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, the San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere.
She divides her time between San Francisco and India.

Customer Reviews

The book reads more like a fiction than a non-fiction.
PxDx
The ending is abrupt, just like several other points in the book where the writer/ reporter could have given the reader more information.
ckdexterhaven
Leela's good fortune changes however, when new laws close these dance clubs and Leela is thrust into prostitution.
Linda Linguvic

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
Beautiful Thing grew out of an article Sonia Faleiro wrote about Mumbai's "bar dancers" that was never published because it wasn't considered newsworthy (perhaps because the bars were officially banned in 2005). It is true that Faleiro's subject isn't groundbreaking, yet the world she investigated -- a world she found fascinating and intimidating even as it left her "feeling frustrated and hopeless" -- deserves to publicized, if only to illuminate the impact of poverty on women who live in a culture of limited options.

Faleiro sketches the hierarchy of sex workers in Mumbai, from the waitresses in a Silent Bar who provide manual relief while serving drinks and tandoori, to brothel workers, to call girls and massage parlor employees. Bar dancers reside at the top of the heap, in part because they sell sex discreetly and infrequently (and thus do not consider themselves to be sex workers), while facing many of the same challenges: paying bribes to the police to avoid being brutalized by their cattle prods; working for violent employers; enduring rude comments and the judgment of a society that regards their profession as impure. Still, by dancing for men, bar dancers gain freedom they could not otherwise enjoy. They do not have to live at home, under the domineering rules of fathers or husbands. They can speak to men to whom they are not related without fear of punishment. Their customers think the bar dancers are dancing for them, but according to Leela (the dancer with whom Faleiro spent tbe most time), the customers are dancing for the bar girls: exchanging money for an insincere smile, rewarding cheesy lines from Bollywood romances with lavish shopping trips, forsaking loving wives for the illusion of a satisfied lover.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue VINE VOICE on March 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Beautiful Thing" reaches us as an acclaimed book of journalism, illuminating one of the darker corners---the world of Bombay's bar dancing girls--of that immense, dynamic Indian city of light and dark, where rich and poor may live hard by each other but never ever touch; no more than will its high and low castes. This remarkable book has been written by the young, award-winning reporter Sonia Faleiro, born in Goa, previously author of The Girl, a novel.

Faleiro was working on a story when she met nineteen-year old Leela, beautiful bar dancer with heart-breaking back story. Faleiro allowed Leela to bring her, as a reporter, into her bar dancer's world, and kept her eyes, ears, and mind open. For five years the journalist met glamorous women, their lovers, their mothers, gangsters, cops, prostitutes and pimps, and, seemingly she recorded and/or wrote down everything she saw and heard. The result is an astonishingly vivid, intimate and immediate work that can put many novels to shame.

The writer now divides her time between Mumbai ( to which Bombay's name has now been changed), and San Francisco. She writes The Other India column on India's marginalized communities and sub-cultures for The New York Times' India site, India Ink. She has spoken about India's marginalized on the American NPR's "All Things Considered." Upon its 2011 publication in the U.K., BEAUTIFUL THING was named an "Economist," "Observer," and "Guardian" book of the year, and The "Sunday Times" Travel Book of the Year 2011. At its American publication, The New York Times called it "an intimate and valuable piece of reportage" that "will break your heart many times over.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on March 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
The population of India is over 1.1 billion souls. That's 1.1 billion stories.

Author Sonia Faleiro doesn't follow in the footsteps of so many other modern writers who choose India as a background for their stories. In Beautiful Thing, Faleiro writes non-fiction because she doesn't have to create an interesting, fictionalized character. Leela is a story in herself.

Leela was raped by the police when she was 13 (I think this is right), in a transaction coordinated by her father. She escapes to Mumbai (Bombay) and becomes a popular performer in "Night Lover," a dance bar which is not quite a brothel and certainly not a fancy dance club.

Faleiro spent 5 years researching the dance bar scene. You learn the routine of dancer Leela, how she parties, flirts with her customers, manages her finances, and compares herself to other people. You learn about Leela's fellow dancers, about police graft and gangsters, about brothel managers and hijras. Leela lives in the fast lane, but it is a lane that goes nowhere, and when Night Lover and other dance bars are closed by government order, Leela's life changes, and not for the better.

This is a raw and intense inside view of a side of India that few see.
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Format: Paperback
This non-fiction book tells the story of the world of young women in India who work at the dance bars, take lovers, engage in prostitution and generally wear out their young lives. Told through the eyes of a reporter who has befriended 19-year old Leela, the reader gets a glimpse into this unique and violent lifestyle that leaves nothing but destruction in its wake.

Like many other young Indian woman, Leela was raised in rural poverty, raped by her father and brothers at a young age and prostituted out to the highest bidder. At the age of 13 she ran away to the big city of Bombay, where her youth and gumption landed her a job as dancer in a club where men sought her favors by giving her gifts. When the reporter first meets her, Leela is living well and has even brought her mother to the big city to live with her.

Leela's good fortune changes however, when new laws close these dance clubs and Leela is thrust into prostitution. Her story, as well as those around her, make for fascinating and sad reading. There just doesn't seem to be any way out of this lifestyle that robs her of her youth, her hopes and her dreams. This book opened my eyes to the poverty and the horror of Leela's world.

Bravo to the author for documenting all of this and bringing it to the world's attention even though I can see no real hope of ever changing the fate of young women like Leela who are indeed victims of their circumstances.
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