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A Burning Review
A Burning is one of those books that leaves you deeply glad it was written. Set in India, the character at the novel’s center, Jivan is a Muslim girl living in the slums who has purchased a smart phone with the wages from her first “real job.” Trying to build up a group of friends on Facebook, she makes an ill-chosen comment about a recent terrorist fire bombing and finds herself arrested as an accomplice. The narrative follows Jivan through the Indian justice system and the prison she lives in while awaiting trial.
Two characters may have a chance to help exonerate Jivan. One, the physical education teacher from her former high school has unexpectedly found himself rising up the ranks in an opposition party. The other, Lovely, a hijra hoping to become a film star, had been tutored in English by Jivan before Jivan’s arrest. Their lives are changing quite as fast as Jivan’s, though in very different directions.
Majumdar’s prose is deceptively unadorned, making a very complicated narrative seem straightforward. A Burning is a fierce examination of current tensions within India: the class struggle, gender issues, and Hindu-Muslim violence. The reader of this book is offered both an engaging narrative and exploration of social issues that bring contemporary India—its beauty and inequity—to life.
I can say without qualification that this is a must-read title for both the emotional and cultural journey it offers readers. Find a copy and give yourself the complex gift of A Burning.
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.
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