Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies the Birth of an Authentic Indian Diasporic Icon
The South Asian diaspora has been in motion for centuries, far before large parts of the region came under the rule of the British East India Company, and later the Crown itself. Within nations themselves, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, physical features, and religion, among many other things, work to shape unique experience. Any notion of South Asian, or even Indian, “authenticity” is fraught from the start. Authenticity is contextually specific in practice, and yet theorized in broad terms. Identity is overwhelmingly intersectional, and so any notion of essentialism, while an interesting thought experiment, is largely useless and untrue to human experience. Familiarized authenticity sells; radical and nuanced authenticity is a risk. It is essential then to consider the modes of canonization, and how and why certain authors are given the powerful title of “authentically South Asian.” As such Lahiri’s success is dependent on her work and her image remaining universal enough that innumerable versions of authenticity may be placed upon her. This paper explores why she functions as a fruitful case study for the construction of Indian diasporic authenticity by looking at her biography, and prolific career. It also provides an alternate analysis of agency she and her agent have in this situation by considering the para text of her novel Interpreter of Maladies.
Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2008. P.5
Ashcroft, Bill, Helen Tiffin, and Gareth Griffiths, eds. Postcolonial Studies Companion and Reader. 2nd ed. Routledge, 2014.
Bhabha, Homi K. "Of Mimicry and Man." Postcolonial Studies, 2016, 53-59. Doi:10.1002/9781119118589.ch3.
Bhatia, Sunil, and Anjali Ram. "Culture, Hybridity, and the Dialogical Self: Cases from the South Asian Diaspora." Mind, Culture, and Activity11, no. 3 (2004): 224-40. Doi: 10.1207/s15327884mca1103_4.
"Bio." Amy Tan. Accessed November 13, 2017. https://www.amytan.net/about.html.
Bladholm, Linda. The Indian Grocery Store Demystified. Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 2000.
Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Cannon, Steve. ""Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri." A GATHERING OF THE TRIBES. January 2, 2003. Accessed March 20, 2019. http://www.tribes.org/web/2003/01/02/namesake-by-jhumpa-lahiri.
Garner, Dwight. "Review: Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘In Other Words,’ a Writer’s Headlong Immersion Into Italian." New York Times, February 9, 2016. Accessed February 13, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/books/review-jhumpa-lahiris-in-other-words-a-writers-headlong-immersion-into-italian.html.
Goodwin, Robin. Personal Relationship Across Culture. London: Routledge, 1999. P.
Hadley, Tessa. "In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri Review – a Pulitzer Prize Winner Gives up Writing and Speaking in English." The Guardian, January 30, 2016. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/30/in-other-words-jhumpa-lahiri-review-learning-italian.
Haney-López, Ian. White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race. New York: New York University Press, 1996.
"Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin)." Pulitzer.org. Accessed February 09, 2018. http://www.pulitzer.org/winners/jhumpa-lahiri.
"Interview With Jhumpa Lahiri." Writers Write. Accessed April 09, 2019.
“Introduction: Naming Jhumpa Lahiri: Bengali, Asian American, Postcolonial, Universal?” In Naming Jhumpa Lahiri: Canons and Controversies, xi-xxvi. 1st ed. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012.
"Jhumpa Lahiri." Biography.com. April 2, 2014. Accessed November 5, 2018.
Jhumpa Lahiri." Interview by Charlie Rose. Charlie Rose. August 18, 1999. Accessed on December 3, 2018. https://charlierose.com/videos/29113.
"Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing, Translation, and Crossing Between Cultures (Ep. 17 - Live at Mason)." Medium. January 11, 2017. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://medium.com/conversations-with-tyler/jhumpa-lahiri-books-novels-in-other-words-6271de0ac8d9.
"Jhumpa Lahiri - About the Author." Random House. Accessed November 13, 2017. https://www.randomhouse.com/kvpa/jhumpalahiri/bio.php.
Kachka, Boris. "The Confidence Artist." March 31, 2018. Accessed March 10, 2019. http://nymag.com/arts/books/profiles/45571/.
Kumari, Trishya. "Book Review: 'The Interpreter of Maladies' by Jhumpa Lahiri." Between the Lines. July 24, 2014. Accessed March 09, 2019.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Hardcourt, 1999.
Mehrotra, Arvind Krishna. "Introduction." In A History of English Literature in English, 1-26. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.
Mishra, Vijay. "The Diasporic Imaginary and the Indian Diaspora." Lecture, New Zealand, Wellington, November 2015.
Pellas, Francesca. "What Am I Trying to Leave Behind?" An Interview with Jhumpa Lahiri." Literary Hub. August 31, 2017. Accessed February 15, 2019. https://lithub.com/what-am-i-trying-to-leave-behind-an-interview-with-jhumpa-lahiri/.
Pierce, Sheila. "Why Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri Quit the US for Italy." Financial Times. May 22, 2015. Accessed April 10, 2019. https://www.ft.com/content/3b188aec-f8bf-11e4-be00-00144feab7de.
“Re-Rooting Families: The Alter/Natal as the Central Dynamic of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth.” In Naming Jhumpa Lahiri: Canons and Controversies, 181-209. 1st ed. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012. P.185
Vertovec, Steven. "Three Meanings of "Diaspora," Exemplified Among South Asian Religions." Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies 6, no. 3 (1997): 277-99. Accessed February 3, 2018. Doi: 10.1353/dsp.1997.0010.
Weigert, Andrew J. "To Be Or Not To Be: Self and Authenticity, Identity, and Ambivalence." In Self, Ego, and Identity, 263-82. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1988.