babies and pregnancy · books and reading · culture/multiculturalism · Hispanics/Latinos · New York · writing

When I grow up…

A favorite author of mine who’s been keeping me up these late nights is Pulitzer Prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri. I would like to pretend that I alone discovered this national treasure but the fact that her most recent collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, debuted at #1 on the New York Times best seller list would prove otherwise. Aside from being addicted to the way she writes, I am drawn to the subject matter. Her characters are most often Bengali immigrants to America and the first-generation children they struggle to raise here. Every story is a struggle between cultures that spans generations.

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?

Quotes from the Washington Post article that hit home:

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.)

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3 thoughts on “When I grow up…

  1. I am crazy about her novels as well but I haven’t gotten to read her latest novel yet. I’m waiting until it gets to my local library so I won’t have to shell out $20 or however much it costs.

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