samedi 5 avril 2008

A great new collection of stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

Fans of Jhumpa Lahiri will be happy to know that she has just published her new collection of short stories. RWB's great friend Renee Levine has just given us her review of Unaccustomed Earth.

I shall not keep you in doubt: I loved this book not only because it spoke to me about all the malaise of my own experience, but because it does that for everyone. You don’t have to be Bengali to feel the pain, the misunderstandings, the love and the difficulty to love Jhumpa Lahiri describes so poignantly. They use d to say you don’t have to be Jewish to like rye bread before we knew about Indians in the US. The author was born in Britain in 1967, parents who had left India to improve their lot and in particular, the future of their children raised in Long Island and regularly shipped off to Calcutta to visit family so as to always maintain that bond with what was felt to be still, home. She grew up feeling, she has written, “intense pressure to be two things, loyal to the old world and fluent in the new.” All that is familiar territory and the child, inevitably feels that she has failed at both tasks. I know all that from my own life: embarrassed not only by their accents but also frustrated because they would not give me room to become “American”, my parents failed at all tasks and so did I. But more complicated, and this is Lahiri’s subject
in this volume of long stories, more difficult yet is the task of the next generation. The children born in America, rightfully their country but clearly not fitting the mold of the middle class suburban child with which the Bengali daughter or son struggles to become equal. Let’s get to the substance: There are five stories, separate from one another, linked by themes of intergenerational discord or misunderstandings, all subtle and nuanced. The second half of the book is one family, three sections of three different periods in their lives. The theme is constant. I could find any number of quotes to give you some flavor, here are two: “He did not want to be part of another family, part of the mess, the feuds, the demands, the energy of it.” Ruma’s father decides “the entire enterprise of having a family,of putting children on this earth, as gratifying as it sometimes felt, was flawed from the start.” That should be enough to get you to want to read this beautiful book.
P.S. I no longer know where I found this nice quote:
“Lahiri is an unillusioned anatomist of the greatest immigrant
success story in the United States.”
Get your copies now of Unaccustomed Earth at RWB!

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