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A History of Burning (2023)

de Janika Oza

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1653167,396 (4.31)11
"At the turn of the twentieth century, Pirbhai, a teenage boy looking for work, is taken from his village in India to labor on the East African Railway for the British. One day Pirbhai commits an act to ensure his survival that will haunt him forever and reverberate across his family's future for years to come. Pirbhai's children are born and raised under the jacaranda trees and searing sun of Kampala during the waning days of British colonial rule. As Uganda moves towards independence and military dictatorship, Pirbhai's granddaughters, Latika, Mayuri, and Kiya, are three sisters coming of age in a divided nation. As they each forge their own path for a future, they must carry the silence of the history they've inherited. In 1972, under Idi Amin's brutal regime and the South Asian expulsion, the family has no choice but to flee, and in the chaos, they leave something devastating behind. As Pirbhai's grandchildren, scattered across the world, find their way back to each other in exile in Toronto, a letter arrives that stokes the flames of the fire that haunts the family. It makes each generation question how far they are willing to go, and who they are willing to defy to secure their own place in the world. A History of Burning is an unforgettable tour de force, an intimate family saga of complicity and resistance, about the stories we share, the ones that remain unspoken, and the eternal search for home"--… (més)
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Es mostren totes 3
In India, in 1898, Pirbhai is the 13 year old bread winner for his family. He is tricked into working for the British, labouring on The East Indian Railway. Looking for work , he signs a piece of paper that he cannot read, and uses his thumbprint for a signature. His children go on to do well enough in Uganda. Vinod, his son, marries Rajna, an arranged marriage. Their three daughters, Latika, Mayuri and Kiya , come of age as Idi Amin begins his brutal dictatorship.

I found the part about Idi Amin's Uganda to be most fascinating. I had never read much about his brutal reign, and the eventual expulsion of South Asians. Each of the daughters lead interesting lives. Latika is determined and bold, and works as a journalist. Mayuri wishes to become a physician , and moves from Uganda to Bombay to study. Kiya hopes to become a teacher. From there, most of the family is forced to flee to Toronto , following a traumatic event. In Toronto , they struggle as a family and as immigrants.

This story grabbed me from the start. It's an epic generational saga, covering family, racism, activism, colonialism, immigration and secrets kept and revealed. It is intimately told from the many points of view of the characters. A quote from the book that resonates throughout the story : "What was love but one long act of forgiveness, of choosing to return, over and over again."

A deeply moving story, beautifully written.

Highly recommended. ( )
  vancouverdeb | Dec 15, 2023 |
Beginning in 1898 with a young boy, Pirbhai, being tricked into traveling from India to Africa to help build the East African Railway, this sweeping saga traces the story of four generations told in snapshots through the years. This family is representative of Asians settling in Uganda during British Colonial Rule and, following the country’s independence and ascendence of Idi Amin, their expulsion in 1972 and worldwide resettlement.

I wasn’t sure about this book. It did take me a few chapters to settle in, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down; I was totally captivated by it. Beautifully written, I learned a lot of history of which I was only vaguely aware. There is so much here, but it is not overwhelming. Well written, there is warmth, love, benevolence, brutality, resilience.

Whenever I read books that tell stories like this one, I am left aghast about how helpless the world is when confronting dictators, the inhumanity of mankind in how it often treats others and how unwilling some are to assist refugees. This book will stay in my head for a while.

This is an incredible work from a debut author.

Thanks to #netgalley and #Grandcentralpublishing for the ARC. ( )
  vkmarco | Apr 6, 2023 |
I received an advance copy of this book. Thank You

I found this book very good and was very impressed that it was a debut novel. Congratulations!

I knew nothing about slave trade from India to East Africa, about the large communities of Indians in East Africa, nor the racism and discrimination various groups faced. Sadly, even among the downtrodden, there was a pecking order.

The book spans 100 years and starts when Pirbhai, the eldest son of a poor family in India, is tricked into going to Africa. He basically agrees to be enslaved. The story follows his journey, and his determination to persevere so that he can help support his family. As times and situations change, Pirbhai makes adjustments and comes to have a family. The story continues with the family and the challenges they face.

While reading this book, you come to understand the importance of traditions, family, and heritage. You see how struggles and resentments form, leading to the upheaval that allowed Adi Amin to rise to power decades later.

This book was ambitious and comprehensive. Since we were following the family, I did feel at times that I didn't get to know some members as well as others, and I wished more attention had been given to them. Pirbhai and his journey, and decades later Vinod's journey, Pirbhai's great or great, great grandson, were much more detailed than the family members in between. I felt I lost the thread and connection to the family in the middle of the book. but then again, the book would have been much longer than the almost 400 pages.

Very good read. ( )
  cjyap1 | Feb 25, 2023 |
Es mostren totes 3
In her debut novel, “A History of Burning,” Janika Oza creates an ambitious conflagration of characters, languages and continents....this epic novel about an extended Indo-Ugandan family that is displaced, settled and displaced again. With each disruption of movement, the author skillfully interrogates sweeping themes of survival, inheritance, immigration, colonialism and racism. By any standards, it’s a daunting undertaking: Oza’s narrative traverses almost a century of time, four generations of family, five continents and multiple languages, with the story moving between the perspectives of 10 characters (largely told in the third-person voice with a few detours into the first person during the last quarter of the novel). The result is a haunting, symphonic tale that speaks to the nuanced complexities of class and trauma for this particular family.....This engaging novel is interrupted by only a few missteps....The author opens things up for her readers. 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.
 
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"At the turn of the twentieth century, Pirbhai, a teenage boy looking for work, is taken from his village in India to labor on the East African Railway for the British. One day Pirbhai commits an act to ensure his survival that will haunt him forever and reverberate across his family's future for years to come. Pirbhai's children are born and raised under the jacaranda trees and searing sun of Kampala during the waning days of British colonial rule. As Uganda moves towards independence and military dictatorship, Pirbhai's granddaughters, Latika, Mayuri, and Kiya, are three sisters coming of age in a divided nation. As they each forge their own path for a future, they must carry the silence of the history they've inherited. In 1972, under Idi Amin's brutal regime and the South Asian expulsion, the family has no choice but to flee, and in the chaos, they leave something devastating behind. As Pirbhai's grandchildren, scattered across the world, find their way back to each other in exile in Toronto, a letter arrives that stokes the flames of the fire that haunts the family. It makes each generation question how far they are willing to go, and who they are willing to defy to secure their own place in the world. A History of Burning is an unforgettable tour de force, an intimate family saga of complicity and resistance, about the stories we share, the ones that remain unspoken, and the eternal search for home"--

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