A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Knopf) reads like a thriller as we witness an innocent Indian girl accused of terrorism in the aftermath of suspicious subway fires. Jivan lives in the slums of India with her parents, goes to school, and teaches Lovely, a hijra (transgender woman) across town, how to read English. Jivan happened to be riding the subway during the time of the fires and made a Facebook post about it. After getting little response to her first post, she wrote another criticizing the police and the government. This comment caused a stir online, and in the middle of the night, Jivan is torn from her home and arrested, and thrown in jail as the only suspect for the criminal activity on the subway.
Jivan’s future is not bright and at every turn, she and her family suffer more. Her hope dwindles when she is put in solitary confinement underground, her father’s rickshaw is destroyed, her family home caves in and her father sustains terrible injuries. Jivan’s school gym teacher, PT Sir, at one time a mentor, believes she is innocent of the charges. Lovely, Jivan’s English student, knows she is not capable of setting fires and murdering people. But PT Sir and Lovely are feeling luckier these days; their lives are on the upswing.
PT Sir is being recognized in politics and he is feeling hopeful for his future. Lovely wants to become an actress and after posting videos she made online, her career is about to take off. In a last-ditch effort, Jivan shares her story with a journalist, hoping he will reveal her truth. All three have the power to alter the path of Jivan’s life, but will they speak up? The abuse of power, corruption and personal gain collide to determine Jivan’s future.
A Burning was an all-absorbing, exceptional story, touching on politics, minorities, privilege and government resources, along with morals and personal gain. Deep characters and a compelling storyline will stick in your mind long after the final pages. A must-read this summer!
At the request of the author, we encourage you to buy this book at your favorite independent bookseller.
Want to know more? Check out Majumdar’s interview with Emily Behnke on the American Booksellers Association website and read an excerpt from the book on the O Magazine website.