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A Burning
Cover of A Burning
A Burning
A Novel
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A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK!A New York Times Notable BookFor readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who...
A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK!A New York Times Notable BookFor readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who...
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  • A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK!
    A New York Times Notable Book
    For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to riseto the middle class, to political power, to fame in the moviesand find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India.

    In this National Book Award Longlist honoree and “gripping thriller with compassionate social commentary” (USA Today), Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovelyan irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humorhas the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.
    Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. An extraordinary debut.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the cover JIVAN

    "You smell like smoke," my mother said to me.

    So I rubbed an oval of soap in my hair and poured a whole bucket of water on myself before a neighbor complained that I was wasting the morning supply.

    There was a curfew that day. On the main street, a police jeep would creep by every half hour. Daily-wage laborers, compelled to work, would come home with arms raised to show they had no weapons.

    In bed, my wet hair spread on the pillow, I picked up my new phone—purchased with my own salary, screen guard still attached.

    On Facebook, there was only one conversation.

    These terrorists attacked the wrong neighborhood #KolabaganTrainAttack #Undefeated

    Friends, if you have fifty rupees, skip your samosas today and donate to—

    The more I scrolled, the more Facebook unrolled.

    This news clip exclusively from 24 Hours shows how—

    Candlelight vigil at—

    The night before, I had been at the railway station, no more than a fifteen-minute walk from my house. I ought to have seen the men who stole up to the open windows and threw flaming torches into the halted train. But all I saw were carriages, burning, their doors locked from the outside and dangerously hot. The fire spread to huts bordering the station, smoke filling the chests of those who lived there. More than a hundred people died. The government promised compensation to the families of the dead—eighty thousand rupees!—which, well, the government promises many things.

    In a video, to the dozen microphones thrust at his chin, the chief minister was saying, "Let the authorities investigate." Somebody had spliced this comment with a video of policemen scratching their heads. It made me laugh.

    I admired these strangers on Facebook who said anything they wanted to. They were not afraid of making jokes. Whether it was about the police or the ministers, they had their fun, and wasn't that freedom? I hoped that after a few more salary slips, after I rose to be a senior sales clerk of Pantaloons, I would be free in that way too.

    Then, in a video clip further down the page, a woman came forward, her hair flying, her nose running a wet trail down to her lips, her eyes red. She was standing on the sloping platform of our small railway station. Into the microphone she screamed: "There was a jeep full of policemen right there. Ask them why they stood around and watched while my husband burned. He tried to open the door and save my daughter. He tried and tried."

    I shared that video. I added a caption.

    Policemen paid by the government watched and did nothing while this innocent woman lost everything, I wrote.

    I laid the phone next to my head, and dozed. The heat brought sleep to my eyes. When I checked my phone next, there were only two likes. A half hour later, still two likes.

    Then a woman, I don't know who, commented on my post, How do you know this person is not faking it? Maybe she wants attention!

    I sat up. Was I friends with this person? In her profile picture she was posing in a bathroom.
    Did you even watch the video? I replied.

    The words of the heartless woman drifted in my mind. I was irritated by her, but there was excitement too. This was not the frustration of no water in the municipal pump or power cut on the hottest night. Wasn't this a kind of leisure dressed up as agitation?

    For me, the day was a holiday, after all. My mother was cooking fish so small we would eat them bones and tail. My father was taking in the sun, his back pain eased.

    Under my thumb, I watched post after post about the train attack earn fifty likes, a...

About the Author-

  • MEGHA MAJUMDAR was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an editor at Catapult, and lives in New York City. A Burning is her first book. Follow her on Twitter @MeghaMaj and Instagram @megha.maj

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 6, 2020
    In Majumdar’s audacious debut, a politically conscious English tutor who works with an aspiring film actor is wrongfully accused of terrorism. After an ill-advised Facebook post criticizing the police’s response to a train bombing in Bengal, Jivan, a Muslim, is charged with the attack. Jivan has an alibi; she was on her way to tutor Lovely, whose testimony might be able to save Jivan from execution. A right-wing party luminary, hoping to gain political mileage from the case, bribes one of Jivan’s former teachers from grammar school in exchange for his false testimony about Jivan, and his lies in court lead to Jivan being jailed. A large portion of the chapters devoted to Jivan, told in the first person, come in the form of expository monologues to Purnendu, a reporter. Lovely’s dialect-heavy passages speak to her difficult life as a hijra (a third gender in India), and her desire to become a star despite being marginalized. Majumdar expertly weaves the book’s various points of view and plotlines in ways that are both unexpected and inevitable. This is a memorable, impactful work.

  • AudioFile Magazine Six narrators of Indian descent bring authenticity to this tragic debut fiction about a young Indian woman unjustly charged with terrorism over a Facebook comment. When Muslim Jivan criticizes the Indian government for mishandling a bombing incident, she doesn't think much about the possible consequences. However, her seemingly innocent comment lands her behind bars. With their accurate Indian accents and adept pacing, the narrators bring listeners into the slums of India. Their multifaceted voices harmoniously blend to bring out a consistent storytelling experience. As Jivan fights to get out of jail, listeners will find themselves sympathizing with her predicament. This must-listen, if overstuffed, audiobook explores the oppression of minorities in the South Asian nation. A.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine

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