Jhumpa Lahiri

Topics: Jhumpa Lahiri, Short story, India Pages: 5 (1869 words) Published: January 9, 2013
Jhumpa Lahiri, born in 1967 to Bengali parents in London, moved to Rhodes Island as a child. She feels strong ties to her parents' homeland as well as the United States and England. She now resides in New York. This colorful background has led her to a unique multicultural perspective. Her goal in writing she states is "a desire to be able to interpret between two cultures". Lahiri remembers her need to write as early as when she was ten years old and she has always used writing as an outlet for her emotions and so her aims were clear to be a writer. Lahiri has traveled extensively to India and has experienced the effects of colonialism there as well as experienced the issues of the diaspora as it exists. Growing up with ties to all three countries created in Lahiri a sense of homelessness and an inability to feel accepted. Lahiri explains this as an inheritance of her parents' ties to India, "It's hard to have parents who consider another place "home"-even after living abroad for 30 years, India is home for them. We were always looking back so I never felt fully at home here. There's nobody in this whole country that we're related to. India was different-our extended family offered real connections." Yet her familial ties to India were not enough to make India "home" for Lahiri, "I didn't grow up there, I wasn't a part of things. We visited often but we didn't have a home. We were clutching at a world that was never fully with us"1 . Lahiri further described this absence of belonging, "No country is my motherland. I always find myself in exile in whichever country I travel to, that's why I was tempted to write something about those living their lives in exile”. This idea of exile runs consistently throughout Lahiri's Award winning works, a short story collection Interpreter of Maladies and novel The Namesake. She felt a combination of intimacy and distance with Calcutta and so her early stories were set up in that place. She quotes, “Still, though I've never lived anywhere but America, India continues to form part of my fictional landscape.”2 Lahiri describes the struggles and hardships of a Bengali couple in The Namesake who immigrate to the United States to form a life outside of everything they are accustomed to. The first word in the novel isn’t a word at all. It is a date, 1968. But in many ways it is fitting that the opening line of Lahiri’s captivating novel takes the reader back in time, for much of the story is an examination of the tension between past and present. And it is that tension between what was and what is-never far. Interpreter of Maladies is a book collection of nine short stories by Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri published in 1999. Among many awards Lahiri won for this work are The Pulitzer Award, The Transatlantic Review Award. It was also chosen as The New-Yorker’s Best Debut of the Year and is on Oprah Winfrey's Top Ten Book List. The stories are about the lives of Indians and Indian Americans who are caught between the culture they have inherited and the "New World." Interpreter of Maladies brings to light many of the issues with identity faced by the Diaspora community. The book contains the stories of first and second generation Indian immigrants, as well as a few stories involving ideas of otherness among communities in India. The stories revolve around the difficulties of relationships, communication and a loss of identity for those in Diaspora. No matter where the story takes place, the characters struggle with the same feelings of exile and the struggle between the two worlds by which they are torn. The stories deal with the always shifting lines between gender, sexuality, and social status within a Diaspora. Whether the character is a homeless woman from India or an Indian male student in the United States, all the characters displays the effects of displacement in a Diaspora. One of the themes Lahiri deals in most prolifically is the search for identity, as defined by the self,...
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