Harman Writer-In-Residence, Fall 2011
photo by Elena Seibert
Jhumpa Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, her debut story collection that explores issues of love and identity among immigrants and cultural transplants. Lahiri’s novel The Namesake was published in the fall of 2003. (A 2007 film version was directed by Mira Nair.) Her most recent book of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, received the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the world’s largest prize for a short story collection.
Born in London, Lahiri moved to Rhode Island as a young child with her Bengali parents. Although they have lived in the U.S. for over 30 years, Lahiri observes that her parents retain “a sense of emotional exile” and Lahiri herself grew up with “conflicting expectations…to be Indian by Indians and American by Americans.”
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Lahiri won the PEN/Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize (for the short story “Interpreter of Maladies”), and the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other honors. She was granted a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 2006. In 2010 Lahiri was appointed to President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
He turned to face his sleeping grandson, the long lashes and rounded cheeks reminding him of his own children when they were young. He was suddenly conscious that he would probably not live to see Akash into adulthood, that he would never see his grandson’s middle age, his old age, this simple fact of life saddening him. He imagined the boy years from now, occupying this very room, shutting the door. It was inevitable. And yet he knew that he, too, had turned his back on his parents, by settling in America. In the name of ambition and accomplishment, none of which mattered anymore, he had forsaken them.
—From Unaccustomed Earth