Former Editor in Chief at Catapult and author of A Burning
Photo credit: Elena Seibert
About Megha Majumdar
Megha Majumdar is an editor, writer, and the debut author of A Burning, an electrifying new novel that follows three characters chasing dreams of rising—to the middle class, to political power, or to stardom—in contemporary India. Majumdar’s novel begins when Jivan, a Muslim girl from the slums who dreams of a better life, is accused of a terrible crime she did not commit.
As the story progresses, PT Sir, Jivan’s former gym teacher, acquires a taste for political power and finds that his rise may be inextricably linked to Jivan’s fall; and Lovely, an irresistible outcast who dreams of Bollywood fame, may be the only one who can save her. At the intersection of these three lives, Megha Majumdar ignites a dazzling literary thriller about fate, justice, class, and political turmoil, that—despite the specificity of its setting—feels unsettlingly universal.
A Burning received numerous accolades for its page-turning prose and striking social and political commentary, including being named a New York Times Notable Book of 2020 and being longlisted for the National Books Award for Fiction. Acclaimed author of There There, Tommy Orange, has called A Burning “…quietly beautiful and devastating. Its tone and pacing are measured perfectly. It is as funny as it is sad. This book won’t let you go, and you won’t want it to end.” Majumdar is the 2022 Whiting Award for fiction.
With a fresh voice and insightful analysis, Megha Majumdar speaks to audiences about the characters in her novel, her perspective as a writer from the diaspora, and the troubling conditions in both her current home and her country of origin that led her to tell this story. In lectures and workshops tailored to aspiring writers, she also discusses her craft, from the overlapping relationship between writer and editor to the project of writing politically-engaged fiction in a time of crisis.
Megha Majumdar was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She was formerly the editor of Catapult, and lives in New York City.
A Burning: Politically Engaged Fiction in a Time of Crisis
In this lecture, Majumdar reflects on her debut novel A Burning, as well her personal experiences and the conditions in both her native and adopted homes that compelled her to write it. A powerful advocate for fiction’s capacity to confront the issues of class, marginalization, and injustice, Majumdar discusses the anger and imagination required to write politically engaged fiction, as well as the challenge of writing with complexity about the homeland where she no longer lives.
Editorial Craft for Writers
As both a novelist and an editor at Catapult, where she acquires literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, Megha Majumdar is intimately familiar with the publishing process from both sides. In a talk that blends career advice with process-oriented tips, Majumdar explains how writers might enlist an editor’s toolkit to sharpen and strengthen their own work, and gives an inside look at the publishing process, providing insights into pitching, submitting, writing book proposals, querying agents, and working with editors. She also discusses her own thoughts on craft, from the role of ethnography and anthropology in fiction-writing to developing a propulsive, fierce, and entertaining plot.
What I Wish I'd Known at Harvard
In this frank and uplifting talk meant for undergraduate and graduate students of all disciplines who are new immigrants to the United States, Megha Majumdar shares what she wishes she had known when she flew to her American college from another country. With insight ranging from practical advice about forming relationships with professors and fellow students to subtler understandings of class dynamics and extracurricular activities as career prep, Majumdar shares the hard-won lessons from her first years in the US.
Praise for Megha Majumdar
Thank you so much for all your work to make Megha’s visit happen. She was wonderful — ideal, really. Her talk this morning was terrific, and her work with students last night and this afternoon was truly special. I’m so appreciative when a visiting writer is as kind as Megha was and so deeply and genuinely attentive to our students. Everyone who worked with her felt honored by how seriously she took them and how carefully she listened to them and heard their work. Everyone appreciated her novel, her engagement with social issues, and her generosity of spirit. I hope we can look forward to having her back again in the future.— Hathaway Brown School
The conversation with Megha was terrific. She was a delight—thoughtful, generous in her responses. We especially appreciated that while engaging with the interlocutor she also spoke directly to the students who were watching.— Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University— University of Michigan, Helen Zell Writers’ Program
Praise for A Burning
Riveting...This is a novel of our pandemic times, an exploration of precarity in all its forms...Majumdar excels at depicting the workings of power on the powerless... Fate has rarely been so many-faced, so muscular, so mercurial, or so mesmerizing as it is in A Burning.— The New York Times Book Review
Powerful... propulsive...This is a book to relish for its details, for the caress of the writer’s gaze against the world... The interplay of choice and circumstance has always been the playing field of great fiction, and on this terrain, a powerful new writer stakes her claim.— Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"Immersive...masterly... the elements of a thriller are transmuted into prismatic portraiture... A Burning has a similar urgency of appeal [to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.] Its characters are at the very front of the stage, and we can feel their breath... Her spare plot moves with arrowlike determination...I can’t remember when I last read a novel that so quickly dismantled the ordinary skepticism that attends the reading of made-up stories. Early Naipaul comes to mind as a precursor, and perhaps Akhil Sharma’s stupendously vivid novel "Family Life.”... It’s only at the end of this brief, brave novel that one becomes fully aware of how broad its judgments have been, how fierce and absolute its condemnations. Through the gaps that open up among and behind these three characters, a large Indian panoply emerges.”— James Wood, The New Yorker
Particularly relevant today... entertaining as well as intellectually serious... complex... nuanced... Captures the grainy specificity of life in India.— The New York Times
In her captivating debut novel A Burning, Megha Majumdar presents a powerful corrective to the political narratives that have dominated in contemporary India.— Time
Remarkable…Early buzz is already comparing A Burning to the work of modern literary stars . . . but the voice—or voices—here are entirely Majumdar’s own.— Entertainment Weekly
Majumdar's explosive first novel is an intimate epic.— Elle
Combines fast-paced plotting with the kind of atmospheric detail one might find in the work of Jhumpa Lahiri or Daniyal Mueenuddin. . . A highly compelling read.— Vogue
Unforgettable.— Harper's Bazaar
A Burning by Megha Majumdar is quietly beautiful and devastating. Its tone and pacing are measured perfectly. It is as funny as it is sad. This book won’t let you go, and you won’t want it to end.— Tommy Orange
Set in contemporary India, Majumdar's explosive first novel is an intimate epic following the threads of three disparate characters as their lives become knotted together in the wake of tragedy.— "The 30 Most Anticipated Books of 2020 (so Far)," Oprah Magazine
This is a novel of now: a beautifully constructed literary thriller from a rare and powerful new voice.— Colum McCann
Megha Majumdar’s soon-to-be published A Burning is the best debut novel I have come across in a long time. Somehow Majumdar succeeds in capturing the boundless energy and starry-eyed hopefulness of the country’s youth. A Burning signals the arrival of a new voice of immense talent and promise.— Amitav Ghosh
Polyphonic…Lovely is a particular gem…brilliant.— Kirkus Reviews
Books by Megha Majumdar
Media About Megha Majumdar
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- Megha Majumdar travels from New York City
New York Times Bestseller
"A Burning is an excellently crafted, utterly thrilling novel full of characters that I won’t soon forget. Megha Majumdar writes about the ripple effects of our choices, the interconnectedness of our humanity, with striking beauty and clarity. A stunning debut.” —Yaa Gyasi