Nilanjana Sudeshna "Jhumpa" Lahiri (born July 11, 1967) is an influential Indian-American writer. She is best known for her debut Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection Interpreter of Maladies, and her novel The Namesake, which was adapted into a film of the same name. She writes a lot about Culture Clash and the Loss of Identity when adapting to new culture, while keeping neutral stances toward Arranged Marriage and the Eagleland. Her works thus tend to resonate with many different audiences, who can relate to the themes of immigration and society present in her work. Lahiri also emphasizes the expectations of women in her work, despite writing primarily from the perspective of men, and straddles Western and Eastern perceptions toward such expected gender roles.
She was born in London in 1967, but moved to Rhode Island just two years later. She grew up her entire life in the United States and attended Boston College, where she started to go by her pet name "Jhumpa" instead of her proper name. Lahiri then began to write short stories that drew much from her personal life and identity as an immigrant, and while she was published in magazines such as The New Yorker and the Harvard Review, she struggled for years to release her debut. Finally, Interpreter of Maladies was released in 1999, and the rest is history.
Her second book and first novel, The Namesake, drew heavily from her own experience in having her name changed while exploring Western and Eastern attitudes toward marriage. Unaccustomed Earth, her second short story collection, focused on people of various backgrounds instead of just first-generation Bengali-Americans. Her most recent work, The Lowland, gave a much more intimate look toward the politics of India in contrast to life in the United States.
She currently resides in Brooklyn, and tends to be pretty soft-spoken toward her own work.
Books by Jhumpa Lahiri
Tropes concerning Jhumpa Lahiri and her work in general:
- Ivy League for Everyone: Pretty much every single one of her works set in America involves at least one character who is or was enrolled in an Ivy. Justified in that she attended Barnard and Boston University, which are not Ivy Leagues, but prestigious schools in their own right.
- Meaningful Name: Averted. While she gives each of her characters meaningful names and such, "Jhumpa", on the other hand, comes from the sound of a child's rattle. Since it's her pet name and not her true name it makes sense, but she has always regretted it.
- Her real name zigzags this. Her first name "Nilanjana" means "one with blue eyes" (to refer to the god Krishna), but her eyes aren't blue, but her middle name "Sudeshna" means "bearer of good news".
- Monochrome Casting: Until Unaccustomed Earth, every single one of Lahiri's Indian characters were Bengali. While Bengalis have certainly immigrated much more than any other Indian subgroup, not every single South Asian you'll meet will be from north-eastern India. Thankfully, she corrected this later.
- Signature Style: Mainly writes in detail about rituals and other various processes.