A Look At Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake

By Adam Kampe
Jhumpa Lahiri by Sanjay Kothari

How do you live in a place that might be completely alien to you? - Manil Suri 

Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel and Big Read selection, The Namesake, further explores an issue near and dear to the author's heart: what it feels like to be an immigrant. Though Gogol Ganguli is the protagonist, it's his mother Ashima who quietly yet boldly embodies this trans-continental burden of living in a new culture/country without a network of friends and relatives, without a safety net. On top of that, she travels from India to Cambridge, Massachusetts, having just married a man she hardly knows. Loneliness doesn't begin to address the feeling for that kind of "acute isolation," as Lahiri puts it. And this loneliness is rooted in reality, not fiction. In comedian Aziz Ansari's recent show Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden, he reflects on this immigrant struggle in a telling and funny bit. “Pretty amazing thing our parents did,” Ansari says. “I’m not going to have any struggles to tell my kids about. What’s my story going to be, like, ‘Oh son, once when I was flying from New York to L.A., my iPad died!’” 

Writers Manil Suri and Lillian Faderman elaborate on this important discussion in our half-hour audio doc. Did I mention that actor Kal Penn, who starred in The Namesake film adaptation, reads excerpts from the book throughout? Take a listen to this short excerpt from the audio show and hear what these smart thinkers (and readers) have to say.