Thursday, October 3, 2013

JHUMPA LAHIRI: ALWAYS A BIG READ




Jhumpa Lahiri’s new novel Lowland is on everyone’s must read list.  Inspired by current events, but always anchored in the stories of families and their relationships, Lowland is about two brothers in 1960’s India.  One becomes a political revolutionary and one a scientist.  Their inseparable relationship and an impulsive act of brotherly love lead to family complications that impact future generations.
 
Born in London to an Indian family from West Bengal, Ms. Lahiri moved to the United States when she was two.  Being an immigrant had a great impact on her writing and the stories she tells reflect her Indian heritage.  Many of her characters must navigate the two worlds of coming from one place and living in another.  Although the theme of each of her books is similar, Lahiri writes with such simplicity and empathy that her characters and plots could be about any culture.  The Monrovia Library has all four of the books she has written.

After being rejected by publishers for years, Ms. Lahriri burst upon the literary scene in 1999 with her book of short stories Interpreter of Maladies, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The Namesake is a particular favorite of library patrons and book groups.  Chosen as a Big Read title by the National Endowment for the Arts, which promotes iconic American books to be read in community-wide reading programs, The Namesake is the story of a second generation Bengali, a young man with an unusual name (Gogol) who must decide his own identity and to what degree he can commit to cultural assimilation.  His restlessness reflects his question of where he belongs--to the traditions of the past or to the freedom of the present.

Unaccustomed Earth is also a book of short stories.  With time and experience on their side, the Bengali immigrants, sometimes second and third generation, in these stories are not as constrained by tradition and are living American lives, but the pull of the past is ever present. 

By the way, the Monrovia Library Book Club, the Novel T’s, will be reading and discussing Lowland in January 2014.

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