Jhumpa Lahiri and Me

Jhumpa Lahiri and Me

Like many Indian American fiction writers working in the shadow of Jhumpa Lahiri, I had to learn that my stories could be different — in part because America was different, too.

By Vauhini Vara

I graduated from high school in 2000, the year Jhumpa Lahiri won a Pulitzer Prize for her first book, “Interpreter of Maladies,” a collection of stories about well-off Indian immigrants and their children. I loved it. It was the first time I’d read fiction that bore some resemblance to my own privileged, suburban, Indian American life.

That wasn’t my only reservation. I noticed that critics and friends seemed to judge Saunders, Williams, Moore and Johnson for their prose alone, while knowing little, if anything, about their backgrounds. With Lahiri, her ethnicity seemed always at the forefront. On NPR, an interviewer described a sad Indian woman in one of her stories, then asked Lahiri, “Is that your mom?” Everything I read about her seemed to be about her background — the Indianness of it all — rather than her writing.

I’m not the only writer of my generation who has bristled at Lahiri’s version of Indian American experience.”

Read the rest @ https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/18/books/review/jhumpa-lahiri-and-me.html


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