Lahiri’s Lowland

I saw Jhumpa Lahiri’s new novel Lowland highlighted recently on Time’s List of Top 10 novels for 2013.  I wish I could have higher expectations for Lahiri with this novel, some hope that she finally is able to get out of writing the same characters and same feelings of angst – but according to this review, it doesn’t seem like the story is very different.

I was among the minority, pun intended as I am Indian American, who did not enjoy either Interpreter of Maladies or The Namesake. In her writing, I feel like I’m reading the same narrative again and again: family moves from India to the northeast United States and experiences angst assimilating into American culture, and have children who are also ill-settled from not being able to reconcile their dual Indian and American selves.  Her characters take actions and have feelings for which Lahiri provides little understanding regarding motivation.

If anything, I feel re-inspired to construct new and fresh narratives, which I see mainly in the comedic space with the likes of Aziz Ansari and Mindy Kaling.  Whether Lahiri doesn’t understand that the dialectical of having Indian and American cultural identities can lead to something creative and positive, or whether she is catering to an audience who prefers the repetitive stories of angst – I don’t know.  For Lahiri, there is only one possible narrative of the Indian American experience.


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