Who Is Jhumpa Lahiri?
Author Jhumpa Lahiri published her debut in 1999, Interpreter of Maladies, winning the Pulitzer Prize. She followed up in 2003 with her first novel, The Namesake, and returned to short stories with the No. 1 New York Times best-seller Unaccustomed Earth. Lahiri's 2013 novel, The Lowland, was partially inspired by real-world political events.
Early Life and Education
Nilanjana Sudheshna Lahiri was born on July 11, 1967, in London, England, to mother Tapati and father Amar, a Bengali couple who immigrated to the United Kingdom from Calcutta, India. Lahiri's father, a university librarian, opted to relocate to the United States for work, eventually settling in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, when she was still a small child.
With the family nickname, "Jhumpa," coming to be used by school teachers, Lahiri went on to attend Barnard College in New York, focusing on English literature. She then joined the student body of Boston University, earning three literary master's degrees before receiving her doctorate in Renaissance studies.
Pulitzer Prize for Debut
Upon completing a Provincetown, Cape Cod, residency, Lahiri was able to share with the world her first book, a collection of nine stories, Interpreter of Maladies, published in 1999. The work's depth-driven plots allowed glimpses into the lives of characters both in India and the States. Interpreter won an array of honors, including the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award.
In 2003, Lahiri followed up with The Namesake, a novel that followed the lives, perspectives and changing family ties of the Gangulis, an Indian couple in an arranged marriage who relocate to America. The work was adapted into a 2007 Mira Nair film starring Irfan Khan and Tabu, with Lahiri acknowledging that she felt a connection to the director's sensibilities.
Best-Seller: 'Unaccustomed Earth'
Lahiri returned to the short-story form via her next literary outing, 2008's Unaccustomed Earth, with the title taken from an introductory passage found in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. With prose focusing on the lives of immigrant clans and U.S.-raised children, including a linked trio of tales at book's end, Unaccustomed Earth reached No. 1 on The New York Times' best-seller list.
Lahiri is renowned for the finesse and poignancy of her prose, with the ability to subtly, mesmerizingly build an emotional connection to characters. "I hear sentences as I'm staring out the window, or chopping vegetables, or waiting on a subway platform alone," Lahiri said of her writing process in a 2012 interview with The New York Times. "They are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, handed to me in no particular order, with no discernible logic. I only sense that they are part of the thing."
Returns With 'The Lowland'
Lahiri returned in 2013 with The Lowland, which became a National Book Award finalist and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Partially inspired by a true story Lahiri had heard growing up, the work initially looks at two brothers, one involved in India's Naxalite movement of the 1960s and the other choosing a researcher's life in the States. The death of one sibling causes reverberations through the ensuing years.
In 2001, Lahiri wed Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, a journalist of Guatemalan descent, with the couple going on to reside in Italy with their children. Immersing herself in Italian, Lahiri has spoken of observing changes in her own writing style, feeling a sense of freedom in relating to a different language.
- Name: Jhumpa Lahiri
- Birth Year: 1967
- Birth date: July 11, 1967
- Birth City: London, England
- Birth Country: United Kingdom
- Gender: Female
- Best Known For: Jhumpa Lahiri is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for works of fiction like 'Interpreter of Maladies,' 'The Namesake,' 'Unaccustomed Earth' and 'The Lowland.'
- Fiction and Poetry
- Astrological Sign: Cancer
- Boston University
- Barnard College
- Interesting Facts
- Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel, The Namesake (2003), was adapted into a 2007 film directed by Mira Nair.
- Cultural Associations
- Asian American
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- Article Title: Jhumpa Lahiri Biography
- Author: Biography.com Editors
- Website Name: The Biography.com website
- Url: https://www.biography.com/authors-writers/jhumpa-lahiri
- Access Date:
- Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
- Last Updated: May 19, 2021
- Original Published Date: April 3, 2014
- For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time. To conjure a place, a person, a situation, in all its specificity and dimensions. To affect us and alter us, as profoundly as real people and things do.
- I never felt that I had any claim to any place in the world ... In my writing, I've found my home, really, in a very basic sense—in a way that I never had one growing up.
- I had been wanting to write in a slightly different way with [The Lowland]. I didn't want the book to feel heavy, because I felt that the book was heavy—I mean that the story was heavy, the material was heavy, the situation, the circumstances, all of this was very weighty. And I didn't want the writing to feel heavy. ... I wanted to have some sort of lightness.
- The idea of meeting writers of the books I've read doesn't interest me. That is to say, I wouldn't go out of my way. If the book is alive to me, if the sentences speak to me, that's enough. A reader's relationship is with the book, with the words, not with the person who created it.
- When I am experiencing a complex story or novel, the broader planes, and also details, tend to fall away. Rereading them, certain sentences are what greet me as familiars. You have visited before, they say when I recognize them.
- I think writing something new each time is a very daunting, scary journey. And I just want to have the strength, and the clarity of mind, to continue to make those journeys.
- If certain books are to be termed immigrant fiction, what do we call the rest? Native fiction? Puritan fiction? This distinction doesn't agree with me. Given the history of the United States, all American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction.
- Writing in another language is humbling. It's so hard. How I explain it to people is that I feel as though I've tied my right hand behind my back on purpose and I'm writing with my left hand, and I recognize how much sloppier it is, how much more awkward it is, how much more out of control it is in a way. But I also love doing without so much.
- The part of the earth that I've always felt most at ease with is not the ground, but sort of the water's edge.