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Janika Oza Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

A History of Burning (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Janika Oza is a bestselling author based in Toronto who won the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest in 2020 and the O. Henry Prize for Short Fiction in 2022.

Living in Boston has had a huge influence on her writing, even though most of the inspiration for her critically acclaimed work came from her family’s history.
Three generations of her family lived in East Africa working on the railroad and only left when Idi Amin expelled Indians in 1972.

Growing up, she used to listen to all manner of joyful stories of how bats used to eclipse the sky and the picnics the family used to take.

There were also stories of violence and pain from soldiers and the unrest during one of Uganda’s most difficult times.

One story that stuck in her mind was the August 1972 expulsion of the entire population of South Asians from Uganda by President Idi Amin in just 90 days.

The edict by the president uprooted more than 50,000 people who were forced to leave everything behind as they moved abroad to find new homes in unfamiliar countries.
The huge diaspora would become a critical plot point in “A History of Burning,” her debut novel.

Since she was so interested in the history of her family and particularly the 1972 expulsion, she began researching and trying to piece things together.

Janika Oza found all manner of articles and books on the expulsion but also realized that this was a historical era that was not that well documented.

It occurred to her that there must have been a lot of erasure about the events of the era which could not be accidental. Once she made that determination, she became convinced that she had to find people with the information and write about it.
Janika connected with her father and some other members of her extended family and their friends from across the world who had experienced the expulsion in 1972.

After interviewing many people, she realized that the book that she was writing was best told intergenerationally. She was interested in telling a story that seriously dove into the memories and stories passed down and even those that are not.
In this work, she hoped to document the experiences of her intergenerational family for posterity.

At some point, Janika Oza moved to Boston Massachusetts and her experience in the United States would further cement her determination to write her book.

While working in Boston, she tried to renew her work visa and was denied, evoking memories of forced relocation. She was lucky that her family lives in Canada and she could go back home and continue living her life.

Still, she had a sense of something being taken from her and a helplessness in that she had no choice in the matter. What she came to learn and internalize was that change, migration, and movement is the story and cycle of her family.
For Janika, leaving Boston was like a speck as compared to the story of displacement her family had to endure at the hand of hostile governments. It provided her with perspective on what replacements can look like in such circumstances.
The good thing was that while she was working in Boston, she had taken a novel writing workshop, which came in handy when she decided that she wanted to become a writer.

Janika Oza’s novel “A History of Burning” is a sweeping and epic intergenerational tale centering on stories of belonging and land and exploring themes of memory, erasure, family, and colonialism over this period.
The work opens in India in 1898 and introduces a thirteen-year-old boy named Pirhbai who is the sole breadwinner for his family.

He had been promised some work on a dhow only to be kidnapped and sent across the seas to work for the British laboring on the East African Railway.

With no voice or money but possessing a strong will to survive, he has to make a difficult choice that will reverberate across the generations. His children go on to find prosperity in Uganda as the British prepare to leave Uganda.
Pirbhai’s granddaughters Kiya, Mayuri, and Latika become young adults as the country is moving toward military dictatorship and tries to forge their own futures in a divided country.

The three women are forced to flee Uganda in 1972 when Idi Amin the brutal dictator expelled all South Asians.

The family ends up in Toronto but still, questions linger, particularly when they find each other and a long-lost letter arrives, supposedly written by their grandfather all those years in the past.
It is a breathtaking and masterful saga of exile and colonialism, resistance, and complicity.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Janika Oza

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