In her stories, I find myself making an instant connection with the first-generation Bengali-American protagonists, all at once straddling two cultures and feeling like outsiders and insiders in both and none. Washington Post writer Teresa Wiltz put it best when she titled her article about Lahiri, “The Writer Who began With a Hyphen.” Lahiri is a hyphenate writing about hyphenates: a Bengali-American representing all those hyphenates out there, even little ole Dominican-American me.
After reading how many a character of Lahiri’s finds love in the arms of an “American” (strictly the white, unhyphenated variety), I found myself curious to find out if Lahiri had made her own choice. (It’s good to note here that her characters also find love in the arms of other Bengali-American characters.) On Google, I was all too pleased to find out that Lahiri had married “one of us,” a Latino with a Guatemalan mama. Go us! And okay, her hubby also has an American (of Greek extraction) father. Go, white people (that’s a shot out to you, honey!)! So, Jhumpa married another hyphenate. And created more hyphenates in her children: Bengali-Latino-Greek-American babies being brought up in a multilingual, multicultural, multiracial heaven. Okay, AND she lives in Brooklyn, only my most favorite New York City borough after Manhattan which totally seems besides the point but isn’t. (Really.)
So, can I pretty please be Jhumpa Lahiri when I grow up?
On growing up in Rhode Island: “There was a persistent feeling of other, not feeling American enough, not Indian enough, of constantly straddling the fences, of stretching identities.” (ME, TOO! Only if you replace Rhode Island with Washington Heights!)
Of visiting the homeland: “But on visits to America, she was the American.” (ME, TOO! Only in the Dominican Republic. And I wonder if she was “the rich American” because even though we were on welfare, everyone was sure we had money because we were Americanos.)