Acclaimed as brilliantly written and superbly crafted, Jasmine grew out of a short story of the same title in The Middleman and Other Stories (1988), which won Mukherjee the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. In Jasmine, the author successfully employs a number of narrative strategies, such as the use of a first-person point of view (unlike the omniscient perspective of her previous novels), singular and plural narrative voices, flashbacks, introspective asides, and cross-cutting, which allow the reader to roam in time, within a chapter, even within a paragraph, from one continent to another. Mukherjee also experiments with the form of the novel by creating a female Bildungsroman in the picaresque mode.
Thematically, Jasmine is central to Mukherjee’s mission as a writer. “My material,” as she has stated, “is the rapid and dramatic transformation of the United States since the early 1970s. . . . My duty is to give voice to continents, but also to redefine the nature of American and what makes an American.” Jasmine is basically a story of transformation. Like Mukherjee’s first two novels, The Tiger’s Daughter (1972) and Wife (1975), and her first collection of short stories, Darkness (1985), it deals primarily with the South Asian immigrant experience. Whereas these earlier works dramatize cultural disorientation and alienation, however,...
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