As photos depicting life in a Mumbai slum scrolled behind her, Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo spoke to new stu­dents and other mem­bers of the North­eastern com­mu­nity on Tuesday night in Matthews Arena about the people, places, and inequal­i­ties in India that inspired her first non-​​fiction book.

The book, Behind the Beau­tiful Fore­vers, was this year’s selec­tion for a North­eastern reading pro­gram called First Pages, which requires incoming students—and encour­ages fac­ulty, staff, and upperclassmen—to read a chal­lenging book that high­lights crit­ical ques­tions facing today’s students.

Boo is a staff writer at The New Yorker, a posi­tion she has held since 2003. Ear­lier in her career, she worked at The Wash­ington Post, where she won the Pulitzer Prize in Public Ser­vice for uncov­ering the abuse of devel­op­men­tally chal­lenged people living in group homes.

Behind the Beau­tiful Fore­vers, which won the 2012 National Book Award for Non­fic­tion, tells the sto­ries of people living in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai sur­rounded by luxury hotels.

Boo sug­gested a reason for why some 2,800 first-​​year stu­dents were asked to read the book. “This is a great school,” she told them. “One of the things that is great about it is your pro­fes­sors and admin­is­tra­tors are serious about edu­cating you in a global context.”

She thought up the idea for her book after meeting her hus­band, Sunil Khilnani, and spending more time in India.

My own work starts from ques­tions,” Boo said. “Ques­tions that won’t leave me be.”

Why, for example, did Mumbai have such great hos­pi­tals, but such poor life expectancy? Why did half the res­i­dents live in slums if records showed that no one there is tech­ni­cally poor?

In November 2007, Boo began fol­lowing teenagers and other people who lived in Annawadi. In the first few months, she said she almost aban­doned the project because she couldn’t work effectively.

When people living in the slums saw her, Boo said, they thought she was lost and staying in one of the nearby hotels.

Basi­cally, I was a circus act,” Boo said. “Over time, they got used to me and I got used to them. It wasn’t easy.”

Even­tu­ally, the people in the book became co-​​investigators, Boo said, helping her find the source of cor­rup­tion and inequality. “I am oper­ating on a hope…that making wrongs less invis­ible will even­tu­ally make those wrongs less common,” she said.

Fol­lowing the talk, Boo answered ques­tions from stu­dents and then signed copies of her book. One stu­dent asked Boo what people in India thought of her book. She said it was well received and she was proud it was seen as “real” in places like Mumbai.

I worked really hard to get it pub­lished simul­ta­ne­ously in the United States and India,” Boo said. “It was not to be a book pub­lished in the west about India.”