Keeping in form with my change of review style, here’s my first question to readers. What do you call a genre that is fiction, but could also be non-fiction. That sounds dystopian, but is also a reality? Have you read such a book and shuddered?
Thoughts on ‘A Burning’:
A Burning by Megha Majumdar – a debut novel by a POC author, was the book club pick by Books On Toast’s online book club, for the month of August. I bought this beautiful edition of the book from an independent book seller online. And when I settled into reading this book, I felt quite satisfied with myself for having checked off a lot of boxes and being a responsible reader. Until I finished the book, and felt gut-punched.
The story revolves around three protagonists – Jivan – the Muslim girl who is jailed for allegedly being in arms with terrorists, Lovely – a transgender (Hijra in colloquial term) who wants to make it big as an actress and PT Sir – A physical education teacher in an all girl’s school who has nationalistic traits and dreams of a better life. A spur of the moment, innocent comment on Facebook by Jivan, spurs a series of events that brings these three characters together, and through Megha’s extremely easy going narrative style, we follow the lives and decisions of the three characters.
I do have to warn readers about some trigger warnings – regarding murder and rape. These are not graphic, but they’re a part of the larger narrative. At the core of the story is the ongoing discrimination that is present today with regards to Islamophobia and how easy it is to ‘catch a criminal’ via social media. Even while reading the book, and writing this review, I feel afraid of being monitored by someone who might not like what I’ve written. People might think that because I liked a book that talks about the most sensitive subject in the country, I’m against the country or have anti-nationalistic sentiments. In a time when we are seeing clear polarisation of views and have leaders who bank on this religious polarisation, drawing a leaf from historic tactics like divide and rule, it is important that such books are written and published and read and appreciated.
It is important that readers like us read such books and acknowledge that what is written is actually not fiction, but has happened, multiple times in the country. And nothing ever changes. What will it take to change such injustice in the world? What will it take for leaders to stop using religion and poverty to gain power? I absolutely loved this book, which was quite similar in its messaging, as another favorite this year – Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, which was also a debut. This is not a happy book though. So please pick this up, only if you’re in a frame of mind where you can digest and accept the hidden truth within the story in this book.
Another 5/5 rated book for me! 🙂