Latest Katherine Boo Quotes from Interviews
As a reporter, you know the tropes of how stories on poverty work in any country. A reporter will go to an NGO and say, "Tell me about the good work that you're doing and introduce me to the poor people who represent the kind of help you give." It serves to streamline the storytelling, but it gives you a lopsided cosmos in which almost every poor person you read about is involved with a NGO helping him. Our understanding of poverty and how people escape from poverty, in any country, is quite distorted.
When I pick a story, I'm very much aware of the larger issues that it's illuminating. But one of the things that I, as a writer, feel strongly about is that nobody is representative. That's just narrative nonsense. People may be part of a larger story or structure or institution, but they're still people. Making them representative loses sight of that. Which is why a lot of writing about low-income people makes them into saints, perfect in their suffering.
In my kind of reporting work, you don't parachute in after some big, terrible event, which is important and has to be covered, but offers only a glimpse. It's the kind of work in which you ask, what is my understanding of how the world works, and where can I go to see these questions get worked out in individuals' lives? That was really the question for me: whether I had anything to add to what had already been written.