Intertwined Cultures In The Writings Of Jhumpa Lahiri

1757 words - 7 pages

Charlemagne was once quoted having said “To have a second language is to have a second soul” (Kushner 29). In achieving full comprehension of another language, one also gains insight into the culture of foreign individuals. It is common knowledge that in the modern world, English is the dominant tongue. Yet, bilingualism, even multilingualism, is a sure sign of possessing the scarce knowledge of cultural diversity. As American society becomes more accepting of various cultures in its politics and education, foreign voices also appear more in American literature. The diversity of origins of the latest young writers is vast: In The New Yorker’s 2010 “Top 20 Under 40” list of new American writers, over one-third were not born in this country. Their homes cross the globe, from Latvia to Peru (“Top 20 Under 40”). The rise in popularity of stories of these bicultural writers can be attributed to the changing of attitudes in America. Our history and present is laden with the accounts of immigrants. Their perspectives are fresh and bursting with talent. Jhumpa Lahiri, a female Bengali author, gained prominence after she was listed in the 1999 edition of the “Top 20 Under 40”. That same year, her collection of short stories “Interpreter of Maladies” was published, and went on to sell millions of copies worldwide. Lahiri in particular is well known for, in the words of Aviya Kushner, “translating the immigrant experience for us, often lyrically…as the English-born child of immigrants, she can move smoothly between both worlds, marveling and assuring us that, yes, it will be all right” (Kushner 27). In many of her short stories, Lahiri focuses on that transition from a foreign culture-in her case, Indian-to American culture. More than often, the characters experience is not an easy one. In her short stories, in particular, “Sexy”, “Mrs. Sen” and “The Third and Final Continent”, we can explore this complex transitioning from one culture to another.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s characters are typically of Indian heritage, often with American-born children, mirroring the personal history of the author. She tends to write “spectacular stories of people who are assimilating and acculturating at different levels” (“Immigrant Experience”),who bear the scorns of life, such as marital failure, affairs, miscarriages, and the estrangement of families. This is not to say she does not celebrate the moments of beauty. Lahiri also shares the stories of falling in love, successful legacies, and the revival of lost relationships. She does all of this, and more, in a simple tone. With her characteristically plain language, she simply tells the stories of people adapting to new cultures. In 1998, Lahiri began a respectable connection with The New Yorker, in which she published a number of stories, fiction and non-fiction. In her first year, “Sexy” was published in the December 28th issue. The initial read-through surprises some readers, as it centers on the story of an American...

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