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.
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