A History of Burning: A Novel

Category: Book
By (author): Oza, Janika
Subject:  FICTION / Asian American
  FICTION / Cultural Heritage
  FICTION / General
  FICTION / Sagas
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Published: May 2023
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 400
Size: 9.32in x 6.28in x 1.33in
Our Price:
$ 36.00
In stock

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*Four generations. Three sisters. One impossible choice. A profoundly moving debut novel spanning India, Uganda, England, and Canada, about how one act of survival reverberates across generations of a family and their search for a place of their own. Named a most anticipated book of 2023 by the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, OprahDaily, and Goodreads.

India, 1898. Pirbhai is the thirteen-year-old breadwinner for his family when he steps into a dhow on the promise of work, only to be taken across the ocean to labour on the East African Railway for the British. With no money or voice but a strong will to survive, he makes an impossible choice that will haunt him for the rest of his days and reverberate across generations.

Pirbhai's children go on to thrive in Uganda during the waning days of British colonial rule. As the country moves towards independence and military dictatorship, Pirbhai's granddaughters-sisters Latika, Mayuri, and Kiya-come of age in a divided nation, each forging her own path for the future. Latika is an aspiring journalist with a fierce determination to fight for what she believes in. Mayuri's ambitions will take her farther away from her family than she ever imagined. And fearless Kiya will have to bear the weight of their secrets.

Forced to flee Uganda during Idi Amin's brutal expulsion of South Asians in 1972, the family must start their lives over again in Toronto. Then one day news arrives that makes each generation question how far they are willing to go, and who they are willing to defy, to secure a place of their own in the world. 

A masterful and breathtakingly intimate saga of colonialism and exile, complicity and resistance, A History of Burning is a radiant debut about the stories our families choose to share-and those that remain unspoken.
Review Quote*"Remarkable. . . . A haunting, symphonic tale that speaks to the nuanced complexities of class and trauma for this particular family. . . . This demand-and spirit-for bolder storytelling that transcends borders and identities certainly can be found in Oza's generous novel. More life, more joy and more love amid a shifting and layered landscape of unspeakable loss. It's all there-the complicated humanity and grief of Oza's family of characters-for the reader to consider and behold."
-New York Times Book Review

"A History of Burning is that rare epic that manages to retain both its sweep and its intimacy. Janika Oza has written a generational saga vivid and alive with sensory and historical detail, an excavation of stories often left untold. There is so much insight here into the aftershocks of colonialism and displacement, the way one generation's decisions, be they voluntary or compelled or somewhere in between, can reverberate through the ages and change lives yet to be lived. This is a beautiful book, unflinching yet deeply engaged with that most human work, the work of forgiveness." 
-Omar El Akkad, author of American War and What Strange Paradise, winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize
"Vast and intricate, alight with love and contained fury, A History of Burning is a towering debut by a phenomenal writer. A book I want to press into readers' hands and discuss for hours."
-Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning

"Intimate and epic, A History of Burning effortlessly spans continents, political movements, and generations, while never losing sight of the humans living in these houses of history. Janika Oza bears witness, with rigor, with unflinching beauty, to a vital branch of South Asian diaspora, allowing both for the complexities of colonial violence and the human heart. A hymn for the ancestors, and the bitter, radiant acts of their survival: this book is a triumph."
-Shruti Swamy, author of The Archer and A House Is a Body
"A History of Burning is as transfixing as a flame. Janika Oza writes strikingly and steadily, with exquisite, incisive detail, about making one's home in imperfect places. This is a book about what it means to be part of a family and lineage, in all its heartbreaking and wondrous complexity." 
-Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin
"Spanning continents and centuries in the lives of four generations of one Indian-Ugandan family, A History of Burning is a riveting testament to home, exile, survival, and inheritance. Janika Oza is a writer you won't want to miss."
-Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers

"[Oza's] writing reminds people that vulnerability and openness are the only ways we can save each other. A History of Burning is the art we need now."  
-Megan Giddings, author of Lakewood
"With the mastery of a seasoned writer, Janika Oza brings vividly to these pages the experiences of one family over nearly a century of history marked by the rapaciousness of colonialism and post-colonialism violence, while capturing memorably how these multiple brutalities damage the lives of those who are its victims. And yet despite their numerous traumas, displacements, and exploitations, her marvellously alive characters find ways to love and be joyful. Truly an astonishing debut."
-Shyam Selvadurai, author of Mansions of the Moon

"Ambitious in scope and dazzlingly executed, A History of Burning is a marvellous debut. A tour de force." 
-Sharon Bala, author of The Boat People

"From India to East Africa, England, and Toronto, Oza's characters experience the heartbreak of departures and arrivals, communities lost and rebuilt. This striking epic combines powerful characters of different generations, compelling storytelling, dramatic settings and conflicts, and thoughtful explorations of displacement and belonging, family ties, citizenship, loyalty, loss, and resilience."
-Booklist (starred review)

"In intimate domestic scenes and scenes of societies in turmoil, she displays a sure-handed ability to write at both small and large scale and to portray with deep sympathy the universal human desire to find ‘a little place to simply exist, freely, and with dignity.' An ambitious family drama skillfully explores the bonds of kinship and the yearning for peace and security."
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Oza's impressive debut spans four continents and five generations of an Indian family as they're forced to migrate again and again for political and economic reasons. . . ."
-Publishers Weekly
Biographical NoteJANIKA OZA is the winner of the 2022 O. Henry Prize for Short Fiction and the 2020 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Award. She has received support from The Millay Colony, Tin House Summer and Winter Workshops, VONA/Voices of Our Nation, and the One Story Summer Writers' Conference, and her stories and essays have appeared in publications such as The Best Small Fictions 2019 Anthology, Catapult, The Adroit Journal, and The Cincinnati Review, among others. A chapter of A History of Burning was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize and published in Prairie Schooner. She lives in Toronto.