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Jhumpa Lahiri Discusses Life, Family & Self-Discovery Through Literature

Jhumpa Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Interpreter of Maladies” and acclaimed writer of “The Namesake” was recently on the Babson campus to discuss her life, her family, and her path of self-discovery through literature.

The March 10 event, part of the Center for Women’s Leadership Author Series, was attended by a diverse crowd of Babson students and staff, and members of the Wellesley Community and beyond. The event was hosted by Dr. Jan Shubert, Director of the Center for Women’s Leadership, who moderated the discussion with Lahiri.

Lahiri spoke to a full house at the Knight Auditorium, and shared personal stories, answered questions and read passages from her latest book of short stories, entitled “Unaccustomed Earth.”

Born to Indian parents in London, Lahiri was raised in Rhode Island and came to see herself as an ABCD, or “American Born Confused Desi” – an expression that refers to children of Indian immigrants and the confusion they experience through the clash of Indian and American cultures.

Lahiri said she began writing stories at age 7, imitating the things she read at school and in the library, to reflect the disconnect she felt between her life in America, and her frequent childhood visits to India.

“It was very consoling for me at the time because I was a very shy child and had a difficult time making connections with other children,” she said.

Though generally fiction, Lahiri said her parents serve as inspiration for much of her writing. “I’ve written about them from this side and that side, from this way and that way, and I guess in that regard I found them endlessly mysterious and fascinating.”

Now a mother of two, with a Spanish-speaking husband of Greek descent, Lahiri said she feels no pressure to push her children toward their Indian-American identities.  Lahiri said her children get exposure to their many heritages, naturally.

“I think the U.S. is made up almost entirely of layers of immigrants,” she said. Culture can be forced, but “to be honest, the project of raising children is daunting and you just want your children to be good people, loving people, caring people.”

– By Andrew Lightman M’11