Jenna Bush Hager selects "A Burning" by Megha Majumdar for her June 2020 Read With Jenna pick.
Set in contemporary India, the book tells the plight of three unique characters whose lives become entangled after a horrific terrorist attack. Jivan, a brilliant young Muslim girl living in the slums, is falsely accused of bombing a train after making a careless comment on social media. Lovely, an exuberant aspiring actress, holds Jivan's alibi but at the cost of everything she holds dear. While PT Sir, a gym teacher with desperate aspirations for success, uses Jivan as a means to gain political power.
The book asks the question: What and whom do we stand by when the worst happens?
"I started writing from a place of alarm and anger," Majumdar told TODAY about her inspiration for the book. "India has been changing in frightening ways and growing more intolerant of minority communities, more extremist. I definitely hope that readers will see resonances in the U.S. as well."
This fast-paced novel reads like a thriller as it covers themes of fate, success, class, corruption and justice.
"A Burning" by Megha Majumdar
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"When somebody is tired from a day at work and they come home and the impulse is to go watch something on Netflix, I wanted to write a book that they could pick up instead and find just as entertaining and just as rewarding and leave them with a lot to think about," said Majumdar.
Jenna called the book "devastatingly beautiful." Though she understands that people may question why she chose a story with such heartbreak during these times of unrest, Jenna stands by the powerful debut.
"I think books are a tool for empathy," she said. "And now when we are stuck at home — and I definitely won’t be traveling to India this summer — this is a tool for all of us to learn more about the plight of people all over the world."
"A Burning" is a gripping story that combines powerful social commentary with pure entertainment.
"I hope that people will use the book to think about how they themselves have pursued dreams and tried to improve their own lives in hard conditions however those hard conditions have presented in their own lives," said Majumdar. "I also hope that people will find it a useful book for considering how injustice has shown up in their own communities."
For more book recommendations, check out:
- 16 highly anticipated summer books you won't be able to put down
- 7 books to read right now, according to a New York Times bestselling author
- Looking for an inspirational story? 10 feel-good books to read right now
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