Janika Oza recommends 6 books with global themes and conflicts

The debut novelist suggests works by Abraham Verghese, Jhumpa Lahiri, and more

Janika Oza.
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Janika Oza's debut novel, "A History of Burning," is the story of a family. It opens in 1898, when an Indian teenager is shipped to Kenya to work and sets a fire that haunts his progeny. Among them are sisters forced to flee Uganda in 1972.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2009)

Verghese's third novel is a beautiful saga about Indian twin brothers coming of age in Ethiopia amid political turmoil. It's a story about betrayal, the bonds between family, and what it takes to heal. It was also the first book I read that encompassed an Indian community in East Africa, a community adjacent to mine. Buy it here.

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Salt Houses by Hala Alyan (2017)

A novel about displacement, making home, and the ways we come back to one another, "Salt Houses" moves from Palestine to Beirut to Boston and beyond. The way Alyan fractures the narrative across time and place, while deeply rooting us in the hearts of one family, was an inspiration for my novel. Buy it here.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2013)

This is the novel in Lahiri's oeuvre that is least talked about, but it's without a doubt my favorite. Set during the Naxalite uprising in India, it is unapologetically political, deeply anchored to place, and attuned to the painful, ongoing work of forgiveness. Buy it here.

Brother by David Chariandy (2017)

Set in Scarborough, Ontario, just outside Toronto, this slim novel is about two sons of Trinidadian immigrants learning to survive, love and dream in a community and city that doesn't see them. There is an aching wound at the heart of the novel, but it is also replete with joy and tenderness on every page. Buy it here.

Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste (2010)

Mengiste's first novel is a story of complicity, underground resistance and survival set during Ethiopia's 1974 revolution. The intimacy and the power of the love between friends and family members in this novel breaks and mends my heart each time I turn to it, which is often. Buy it here.

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat (2010)

The only nonfiction work on this list, Danticat's book blends memoir and essay to examine the necessity of bearing witness, writing against silencing, and what it means to be an artist in exile. "Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously," she writes — a call to action that I will always return to. Buy it here.

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