Shahnaz Habib with Sonora Jha — 'Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel'

This witty personal and cultural history of travel asks: what does it mean to be a joyous traveler when we live in the ruins of colonialism, capitalism and climate change?


Third Place Books welcomes Shahnaz Habib to our Ravenna store! Habib will be discussing her new book of travel essays, Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel. She will be joined in conversation by local author Sonora Jha. This event is free and open to the public.

For important updates, registration is highly recommended in advance. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

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About Airplane Mode. . .

This witty personal and cultural history of travel from the perspective of a Third World-raised woman of color, Airplane Mode, asks: what does it mean to be a joyous traveler when we live in the ruins of colonialism, capitalism and climate change?

The conditions of travel have long been dictated by the color of passports and the color of skin.

The color of one’s skin and passport have long dictated the conditions of travel.  For Shahnaz Habib, travel and travel writing have always been complicated pleasures. Habib threads the history of travel with her personal story as a child on family vacations in India, an adult curious about the world, and an immigrant for whom roundtrips are an annual fact of life. Tracing the power dynamics that underlie tourism, this insightful debut parses who gets to travel, and who gets to write about the experience.

Threaded through the book are inviting and playful analyses of obvious and not-so-obvious travel artifacts: passports, carousels, bougainvilleas, guidebooks, trains, the idea of wanderlust itself. Together, they tell a subversive history of travel as a Euro-American mode of consumerism—but as any traveler knows, travel is more than that. As an immigrant whose loved ones live across continents, Habib takes a deeply curious and joyful look at a troubled and beloved activity.


Praise for Airplane Mode. . .

Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals of Excellence
Debutiful, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023

"Airplane Mode, brimming with curious travel facts filtered through Habib's witty, conversational style, is an insightful literary companion for explorers of all stripes."
—Shahina Piyarali, Shelf Awareness

"With a perceptive eye and in fluid, intimate prose, Habib nimbly demonstrates how 'the more we dig into the history of modern tourism, the more the pickax hits the underground cable connection with colonialism.' Jet-setters will be captivated and challenged."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A timely reframing of what it means to travel."
—Alan Moores, Booklist

"A wide-ranging, politically acute inquiry into the history of travel and tourism . . . Enlightening and entertaining."
Kirkus Reviews

Shahnaz Habib is a writer and translator based in Brooklyn. She translates from her mother tongue, the south Indian language of Malayalam, and has translated two novels, Jasmine Days and Al-Arabian Novel Factory, the first of which won the 2018 JCB Prize. She also consults for the United Nations. Airplane Mode is her first book.

Sonora Jha is the author of the memoir How to Raise a Feminist Son and the novel Foreign. After a career as a journalist covering crime, politics, and culture in India and Singapore, she moved to the United States to earn a PhD in media and public affairs. Sonora’s op-eds, essays, and public appearances have been featured in the New York Times, on the BBC, in anthologies, and elsewhere. She is a professor of journalism and lives in Seattle.

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