Award-winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri has spent most of her life traveling between countries. Born in London and raised in Rhode Island, she visited Calcutta regularly with her family, often for months at a time. Neither a tourist nor a native, her ties to India are as strong as her ties to the U.S. This feeling of free-floating between cultures, plus her experience growing up in an immigrant household, permeates her characters, settings, and themes.
A serious student, Lahiri excelled at school. As a child, she wrote endlessly in notebooks and reported for her school newspaper, but she did not seriously begin writing fiction until after graduation from Barnard College. She went on to receive three Master's degrees and a PhD, all from Boston University, but had no real interest in academics. She managed to get a few stories published and was eventually accepted to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown -- which put her on the road to finding an agent and selling her first book, a collection of short fiction cryptically entitled Interpreter of Maladies.
When Interpreter of Maladies hit the bookshelves in 1999, readers and critics fell in love with Lahiri's luminous prose and fully realized characters. Moving dexterously between first- and third-person narration and unfolding from the perspectives of both men and women, the nine stories in the anthology showcase Lahiri's flexibility as a writer. She navigates the emotional terrain between two cultures, Indian and American, with grace and deftness; and although she sets her tales in both countries, India always resonates in the hearts of her characters, no matter where they live. In 2000, Lahiri received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Fiction -- an honor rarely bestowed on a first-time author.
In 2003, Lahiri published her debut novel. The story of a first-generation Bengali-American boy and his family, The Namesake became an international bestseller. The New York Times named it a Notable Book of the Year; several publications included it in their annual roundups of best reads; and in 2007, Indian-born director Mira Nair turned it into a critically acclaimed feature film.
Jhumpa Lahiri continues to explore both sides of the cultural divide with passion, clarity, and elegance. Writing in her unique voice, she brings into focus the grey areas of life, creating seamlessly crafted plots and three-dimensional characters that draw readers back again and again.
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Like the rest of her family, Lahiri has a (private) "pet name" and a (public) "good name." When she started school, her teachers decided that Jhumpa, her pet name, was the easier one to pronounce, and she has been called that in public ever since, something many of her relatives find odd.
A major turning point for Lahiri's writing career came when she was accepted into the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Lahiri is married to journalist Alberto Vourvoulias, a Guatemalan of Greek ancestry. Their son, Octavio, is learning to speak English, Bengali, and Spanish.
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