Books on PovertyListed below are four fiction and non-fiction books on poverty. The novels not only share interesting stories and plots, but they also demonstrate the injustice of poverty and remind the readers of the importance of fighting back and helping people overcome these odds.

4 Books on Poverty

  1. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers
    Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a non-fiction novel by Katherine Boo — Pulitzer Prize winner and staff writer for The New Yorker. Her novel sheds light on families trying to better their lives in a makeshift settlement in Annawadi, while the rest of India begins to flourish. Boo spent three years in India personally gathering stories about the struggles these families faced. The novel begins by revealing the harsh truth of living in slum life; families make money by selling rich people’s garbage while facing adversity like wrongful imprisonment. Boo also shows how corruption in institutions like hospitals, charities and the education system threatens poor communities. Behind the Beautiful Forevers won the National Book award in 2012. The novel has been added to the common core and the teachings continue to be shared in high schools everywhere.

  2. NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names
    We Need New Names
    is a fictional novel written by Zimbabwean author, NoViolet Bulawayo. Bulawayo’s novel is about a young girl’s journey out of Zimbabwe and into the United States. The book focuses on life in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. At that time, the country was in a political upheaval; the young girl and her family were forced to move to a new village after their home was bulldozed by the government. The book tells of the obstacles of living in a poverty-stricken country, and the family’s need to get out and start a new life.

  3. Robert D. Kaplan’s Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea
    Kaplan’s Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea is a non-fiction novel that explores the ethnic, religious and class conflicts of people in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea in the 1980s. Kaplan studies the reasons for famine in the region and offers both a forward and afterward, which explains how the region has developed since the famine in the 80s.

  4. Nicholas D. Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
    Half the Sky is a non-fiction novel about the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. The novel introduces struggling women throughout Africa and Asia, some of which share their tragic experiences of being sold into sex slavery and suffering dangerous injuries during childbirth. The novel also gives hope to the audience by sharing how these women overcame the obstacles of living as a woman in poverty to lead fulfilled, successful lives.

Not only do these four books on poverty entertain their readers with interesting stories, but they also emphasize the importance of fighting back and helping to end poverty by sharing the harsh reality of living in a poverty-stricken community.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

Literacy Rate in India
India witnessed an increase in its overall literacy rate, jumping from 64.8 percent in 2001 to 74 percent in 2011. To further encourage this upward trend, Pratham Books is introducing children to new adventures and worlds. Pratham Books is a nonprofit publisher empowering Indian children with the joy of reading. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), in 2016, one out of two Indian children could not read at their grade level. Pratham Books is on a mission to improve the youth literacy rate in India.

Accessibility of Pratham Books to Different Reading Proficiencies

Pratham Books offers children a variety of programs to encourage them to read. From their bright and colorful storybooks to their cost-efficient story cards, Pratham Books has created a platform for everyone to enjoy. The storybooks expand over a wide range of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama.

Pratham Books divides books into four levels; emergent, early, independent and fluent readers. Instead of children deciding to read a book based on age, they can choose based on their reading proficiency so they can learn at their own pace. The nonprofit publisher also explores STEM, cultural and bilingual topics.

The Importance of Library-in-a-Classroom

According to the World Bank, nearly 22 percent of India’s population was living in poverty in 2011. For many low-income families, children do not have access to school supplies, including books. Pratham Books created a solution to this issue through its Library-in-a-Classroom (LIC) initiative. The LIC is a portable bookshelf that schools can hang on a wall and can hold over 100 books. Though the LIC does not have rows upon rows of shelves, it does provide children with a library-like atmosphere and inspires them to read.

StoryWeaver and Digital Books

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 40 percent of the world lacks access to education in a language they can understand. Aside from print books, Pratham Books also supplies children with digital storybooks through its digital platform, StoryWeaver. With over 15,000 stories in nearly 200 languages, StoryWeaver is not only a place where children can read and learn but also create, translate and download content for free. In an interview with The Economic Times, Chairperson, Suzanne Singh, stated that with nearly 400,000 users on StoryWeaver, the company’s “readership…has grown outside India.” People as far as African and Canada explore StoryWeaver’s rich content while supporting a good cause.

“A Book in Every Child’s Hand”

From 2017-2018, Pratham Books shared nearly 1.5 million books across India. Through the assistance of its partners, Pratham Books also established 300 libraries in government schools. That same year, the nonprofit publisher’s Donate-a-Book campaign was able to provide 45,000 children with access to a library. Pratham Books has recently released PhoneStories, granting children access to its stories while on the go.

Through Pratham Books, thousands of children now have access to books in school and their language. With more and more young children introduced to reading, the youth literacy rate in India continues to increase. The nonprofit publisher may have begun in India, but it is greatly impacting the world and empowering children.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

Novels About Global PovertyBeing a teenager is hard no matter what situation you live in. But these authors have written novels about global poverty, following young protagonists who deal with poverty with wit, humor and compassion. So the next time you’re at your local library or bookstore, pick up one of the following titles.

5 Young Adult Novels About Global Poverty

  1. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
    This book won a 2006 Newberry Honor for its outstanding contribution to children’s literature. It follows 14-year-old Miri, named for the fictional miri flower that grows between cracks of linder stones. When it is foretold the next princess will come from Miri’s small mountain village, all teenage girls are forced to attend school for the first time in their lives. With newfound knowledge of diplomacy, reading and commerce, Miri and the other girls are able to negotiate a better life for themselves and their families.
  2. Trash by Andy Mulligan
    Based on the author’s experience teaching in the Philippines, this story takes place in a not-so-distant future. Three “dumpsite boys” are picking trash when they find something truly special—a wallet and a key. Their decision to keep the items sends them through a tangled web of government corruption. Now, they must use all of their wit to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and right a terrible wrong.
  3. No and Me by Delphine de Vignan
    After winning the prestigious Bookseller’s Prize in France as an adult novel, this book has been translated into English and rebranded as young adult fiction. The story features 13-year-old Lou Bertignac, a very intelligent Parisian girl with a strained home life. While watching people at the Austerlitz train station, Lou meets No, an 18-year-old homeless girl. The two develop a friendship that starts as a school project but soon becomes genuine. When Lou asks her family if No can live with them, it has far-reaching effects on both No and Lou’s family.
  4. Street Dreams by Tama Wise
    On the first page of this book, Tyson Rua, a high school dropout living in South Auckland, falls in love at first sight—with a man. Inspired by author Tama Wise’s experiences growing up Māori and LBGT+ in New Zealand, this book follows Tyson’s pursuit of “the white homeboy.” Although he works as a dishwasher to support his mother and two younger brothers, Tyson loves hip-hop and graffiti art. He joins a crew of street artists, who subject him to homophobic slurs, and ventures from his poor Māori community into the almost all white gay scene. Tyson’s coming-of-age story is a challenge of balancing race, sexuality and poverty—a rarity in young adult fiction.
  5. Sold by Patricia McCormick
    Told in short chapters, this novel is a National Book Award finalist. Thirteen-year-old Lakshmi lives in a small Himalayan village with her mother and stepfather, who gambles away their money at a local tea shop. When a monsoon causes their crops to fail, her stepfather claims to have found Lakshmi work as a maid. She travels to India only to learn the truth—she has been sold into prostitution. The novel chronicles her stay at “Happiness House” and her daring attempt to escape.

Although these young adult novels deal with a wide variety of topics, they each relate to the systemic problem of global poverty. Sexual slavery, lack of access to girls’ education, homelessness and trash picking are very real circumstances that many teenagers experience. Novels about global poverty are not only captivating but also provide much-needed awareness on important issues in the world today.

Jackie Mead
Photo: Flickr


For many, learning the truth about poverty can be hard. Unfortunately, for many, poverty is a sad reality. However, people should want to learn more about poverty so that it can be alleviated. The following is a list of books that will change your perspective on poverty:

  1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

    Katherine Boo, Pulitzer-winner, published this novel in 2012. This book is a narrative nonfiction that tells the story of a family working towards a better life in the city of Annawadi, where inequality is very high. Over the course of three years, Boo got to know the people who live in Annawadi. The book focuses on the daily stresses and problems of the inhabitants, who are suffering from poverty, hunger, diseases, violence and ethnic strife. Boo focuses on people such as a young orphan named Sunsil, a garbage picker, and Fatima, a young, emotionally troubled woman who only has one leg and dreams of a better life. The book focuses on many people who are suffering from poverty and wish to escape the situation. This heartbreaking and dramatic true story will change your perspective about poverty.
  2. How Change Happens 

    This novel, “seeks to understand how power and systems shape change, and how you can influence them.” How Change Happens was published in 2016 and is written by Duncan Green. This book is for those interested in activism, lobbying, or joining organizations that are dedicated to inspiring change. Green focuses on major themes that can help make change occur in the world.

  3. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide 

    Written by Pulitzer-winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, this nonfiction story takes place in Asia and Africa. Here, Kristof and WuDunn meet extraordinary women who are struggling with inequality, sex slavery, violence and abuse. Kristof and WuDunn paint the world with many emotions; sadness, anger, clarity, and hope. “Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen,” reviewers commented. This book will definitely change your perspective about poverty.

  4. Development as Freedom 

    Development as Freedom was published in 1999 and written by economist Amartya Sen. The book argues that economic development entails a set of linked freedoms: the freedom of opportunity including access to credit, political freedoms and transparency in relations between people, and economic protection from abject poverty, including through income supplements and unemployment relief. The book states that real change will not happen simply by increasing basic income or rising average GDP per capita. Instead, a package of overlapping mechanisms that will enable the exercise of a growing range of freedoms is required. Sen’s views lie in free markets as an essential method of acquiring freedom.

  5. Little Bee 

    Chris Cleave’s fiction novel, Little Bee, follows the story of two women — one a recent widow from suburban London, and the other is an illegal Nigerian refugee. These women form a tenuous friendship, and as the story develops, Little Bee’s harsh life is recounted. The novel examines the treatment of refugees by the asylum system, as well as issues of British colonialism, globalization, political violence, and personal accountability.

These books will all change your perspective about poverty. They even offer ways in which people can help alleviate poverty, and suggestions for how people should treat each other in order to thrive in this world. Each book tells heartbreaking, but true stories that are many people’s reality, living in poverty and enduring harsh conditions. The books and their dynamic characters will surely affect your perspective on poverty.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr