Chatto & Windus has scooped an "exciting literary debut" by Janika Oza, based on the author’s family’s exile and resettlement from Uganda.
The publisher said a deal was struck for A History of Burning after "intense auctions" in the US and Canada. Becky Hardie, deputy publishing director, bought UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Anna Carmichael at Abner Stein. Seema Mahanian at Grand Central Publishing acquired US rights, and Anita Chong at McClelland & Stewart acquired Canadian rights, from Sarah Bowlin at Aevitas Creative. It will be published in May 2023.
Oza's novel is set in India, Uganda, Canada and the UK, and traces four generations of a family and their search for home and belonging. At the turn of the 20th century, Pirbhai, a teenage boy, is tricked into indentured servitude, taken from his village in India to labour on the railway being built by the British across East Africa. One desperate act for survival will forever haunt him, an inheritance passed down through generations and carried across continents.
The publisher said: "A History of Burning charts the non-linear path of forced migration within an Indo-Ugandan family caught between complicity and resistance—amid colonial rule, the unrest of Idi Amin’s violent regime, and then in their new life in Toronto and London. Oza examines the cost of survival and what it takes to belong to a nation, a land and a family."
Oza is the winner of the 2020 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Award. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications such as The Best Small Fictions 2019 Anthology, the Cincinnati Review, and the Malahat Review.
A chapter of A History of Burning was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize and published in Prairie Schooner. Oza is a features reader for the Rumpus and a 2020 Diaspora Dialogues long-form fiction mentee. She lives in Toronto.