In 1972, dictator Idi Amin expelled 80,000 South Asians from Uganda. Though many had lived in East Africa for generations, they were forced to flee in ninety days as their country descended into a surreal vortex of chaos and murder.
Spanning the years between 1921 and 1975, Where the Air Is Sweet tells the story of Raju, a young Indian man drawn to Africa by the human impulse to seek a better life, and three generations of his family, who carve a life for themselves in a racially stratified colonial and post-colonial society. Where the Air Is Sweet is the story of a family: their loves, their griefs and, finally, their sudden expulsion at the hands of one of the world's most terrifying tyrants.
“Jamal has woven a large cast of characters spanning three generations and three continents into an engrossing tale of race, gender and family relations with a sophisticated eye to their culture origins, and an appreciation for life in Canada, ‘where the air is sweet.’”
“With her graceful, confident prose, Jamal creates a world so real it pulsates with vitality and tenderness. Her characters straddle the permeable, ever-shifting line between homes, between overlapping identities, between longing and belonging, desire and hope.”
“Readers are drawn into the family’s hard-won victories, only to share the acute disbelief and unimaginable pain people must feel when, in a heartbeat, their entire reality shifts from a firm foundation filled with everyday life to a nightmare of violence and homelessness.”
“This story is at turns engrossing, shocking, beautiful, yet revolting in its dark reality. But it is an important history of a displaced diaspora searching for a place in this world to call home.”
“Big of heart and mind, Tasneem Jamal’s powerful debut novel exposes the fragility of belonging and, with its sweeping historical eye, brings home the true meaning of Canada.”
“Where the Air Is Sweet is a story of family, but it is also a story of rights—the rights of women, the rights of citizens, the rights of humanity. . . . . Beautifully written and deeply emotional.”
“Beautifully written and brimming with intelligence. A wonderful debut.”