‘Today Show:’ Jenna Bush Hager Picks a Cultural Page-Turner for June’s ‘Read With Jenna’

Jenna Bush Hager of the Today Show continues to report from home while quarantining with her husband and three children. Staying on top of her popular book club Read With Jenna, Hager selected a compelling novel for the month of June that promises to transport readers into a cultural experience.

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager of the 'Today Show'
Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager of the ‘Today Show’ | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

‘Today Show’ host selects timely debut novel

Mixing issues of culture with contemporary media platforms, the debut novel by Megha Majumdar is sure to draw in readers from page one. Hager selected A Burning, the first written work by Majumdar, which centers around the three main characters whose lives become intertwined after a destructive terrorist attack.

After Jivan, a young Muslim girl living in the slums, makes a careless comment on Facebook, she is falsely accused of bombing a train, according to Today.com. Lovely, an outcast and aspiring actress with big dreams, holds the alibi that can free Jivan but the price may be too costly. PT Sir, a politically-centered gym teacher, tries to use Jivan as leverage for power.

A fast-paced page-turner, A Burning spans a myriad of themes including class wars, corruption, reputation, and the drive for success.

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Megha Majumdar explains her motivation for ‘A Burning’

Already receiving rave reviews, Majumdar described what inspired her in creating the storyline for her first novel.

“I started writing from a place of alarm and anger,” Majumdar told Today.com. “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.”

Intending to challenge readers with subject matter relevant to today’s cultural issues, Majumdar hopes to provide a thoughtful alternative to mainstream material.

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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,” the author shared.

Jenna Bush Hager gives ‘A Burning’ high marks

Hager purposefully went with a more challenging selection this month hoping to open readers’ eyes to other cultures and the many challenges they face.

“I think books are a tool for empathy,” Hager explained. “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.”

Through her writing, Majumdar aspires to prompt readers to reflect upon their own personal stories and surroundings and possibly bring a new cultural perspective.

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“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,” Majumdar said. “I also hope that people will find it a useful book for considering how injustice has shown up in their own communities.”

A Burning is on sale now.