Jhumpa Lahiri

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 711

Jhumpa Lahiri (la-HAR-ee) was born in London on July 11, 1967, to Bengali parents originally from Calcutta. Her mother, a teacher, and her father, a librarian, immigrated to the United States when she was a child, and Lahiri grew up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. She was a shy child, uncomfortable in groups, who started writing ten-page “novels” during recess with friends, quiet girls like her who enjoyed stories. In one interview, Lahiri said she always hoped for rainy days so she could stay inside and write instead of having to run around the playground.

In high school, Lahiri stopped writing fiction, for she had no confidence in her ability in the form, and instead wrote articles for the high school newspaper. In college, she took some creative writing classes but still felt she might never succeed in writing fiction and thus decided to be an academic. After being turned down by a number of graduate schools, she got a job as a research assistant at a nonprofit organization, discovered the ease of writing with a computer, and began writing fiction again.

A second-generation immigrant, Lahiri found it difficult having parents who, even after living abroad for thirty years, still considered India home. She said she inherited a sense of exile from her parents, even though she felt more American than they. Lahiri, realizing that loneliness and a sense of alienation are hard for immigrant parents, thought that the problem for their children was that they feel neither one thing nor the other. Having visited India often, Lahiri said she never felt any more at home there than she did in the United States.

Much of Lahiri’s time spent in Calcutta as a child was with her grandmother, which she said made it possible for her to experience solitude and which also encouraged her to see things from different points of view. Being a second-generation American did not make her want to be a writer so much as it made her want to write, to seek solace by recording her observations in a place where she answered only to herself. The act of writing made it possible, she said, to withdraw into herself.

Because Lahiri went to Calcutta neither as a tourist nor as a former resident, she learned to observe things as an outsider, even though she felt she belonged there in some fundamental way. She said her first stories were set in Calcutta as a result of this combination of distance and intimacy. However, she claimed never to have thought consciously of trying to deal with questions of cultural identify in her writing as much as simply beginning with a conflict in a character’s life.

Lahiri received her B.A. from Barnard College in New York City in 1989 and subsequently enrolled in Boston University’s creative writing program, from which she received her M.A. in 1993. Lahiri also received an M.A. in English and an M.A. in comparative literature and the arts from Boston University. She earned her doctorate in Renaissance studies from Boston University in 1997 but decided she wanted to write fiction. She said that she worked for the Ph.D. out of a sense of duty and practicality, but pursuing it was never something she loved. She wrote stories on the side while doing the research for her dissertation. Lahiri worked in the summer of 1997 at Boston magazine as an intern, doing routine tasks and writing news stories. She received a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she studied in 1997 and 1998. The experience at Provincetown changed everything: In seven months’...

(This entire section contains 711 words.)

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time she got an agent, had a story published inThe New Yorker, and got a book contact.

The title story of Lahiri’s collection of stories was included in both Best American Short Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. The New Yorker named her one of the twenty best writers under the age of forty. She won the Transatlantic Review award from the Henfield Foundation, the Louisiana Review Award for Short Fiction, a fiction prize from The Louisville Review, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and ultimately the Pulitzer Prize for Interpreter of Maladies in 2000. Lahiri has taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 172

Like her characters in The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri is of Bengali/Indian descent. She was born in London, in 1967, and was later brought to Kingston, Rhode Island, where she grew up. When it was time for college, Lahiri went to Barnard, where she received her bachelor's degree in English literature. Afterward, she taught creative writing at Boston University and at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Lahiri's first published book was a collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies (1999), which won the Pulitzer Prize. The topic of the stories in this collection is similar to the general theme of The Namesake—problems of assimilating to a new country.

The Namesake is Lahiri's first novel. In 2007, a film adaptation of The Namesake was made. In 2008, Lahiri published a second collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth. Shortly after this collection appeared in bookstores, it shot to number one on the New York Times best-seller list.

Lahini is married to Albert Vourvoulias-Bush, a journalist. The couple and their two children live in Brooklyn, New York


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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 172

Jhumpa Lahiri's life is as quietly interesting and complex as that of her characters. She was born to Bengalese parents in London in 1967 and then raised in Rhode Island, where her father is a librarian. Lahiri attended Barnard College as an undergraduate, then Boston University, where she earned two masters' degrees, and a PhD in Renaissance Studies. Her desire to write started young; she was writing miniature novels with her friends as early as grade school.

Besides emphasizing books and learning, something that defines many of her characters, as well as her professional path, Lahiri's family influences her work in other ways as well. They often vacationed in Calcutta, staying from a few weeks to several months at a stretch. These trips, combined with stories from family members, color and inform her fiction. For example, the main character in one of the stories in her first collection, Interpreter of Maladies, is based on her father. That collection won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000.

Lahiri’s other works include her best-selling novel The Namesake.


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