We welcome Janika Oza to read from and discuss A History of Burning with Lillian Li.
About the book: This epic, sweeping historical novel full of "wondrous complexity" spans continents and a century, and reveals how one act of survival can reverberate through generations (Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin).
In 1898, Pirbhai, a teenage boy looking for work, is taken from his village in India to labor for the British on the East African Railway. Far from home, Pirbhai commits a brutal act in the name of survival that will haunt him and his family for years to come.
So begins Janika Oza's masterful, richly told epic, where the embers of this desperate act are fanned into flame over four generations, four continents, throughout the twentieth century. Pirbhai's children are born in Uganda during the waning days of British colonial rule, and as the country moves toward independence, his granddaughters, three sisters, come of age in a divided nation. Latika is an aspiring journalist, who will put everything on the line for what she believes in; Mayuri's ambitions will take her farther away from home than she ever imagined; and fearless Kiya will have to carry the weight of her family's silence and secrets.
In 1972, the entire family is forced to flee under Idi Amin's military dictatorship. Pirbhai's grandchildren are now scattered across the world, struggling to find their way back to each other. One day a letter arrives with news that 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.
Janika 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 Prairie Schooner, among others. She lives in Toronto.
Lillian Li is the author of the novel Number One Chinese Restaurant, which was an NPR Best Book of 2018, and longlisted for the Women’s Prize and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Granta, One Story, Bon Appetit, and Travel & Leisure.