I enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri’s books when I read them. She is obviously a talented writer, and her stories offer a good perspective on the immigrant experience in the twenty first century. But this review by Adelle Waldman in The New Republic raises a point that I hadn’t thought about before. To put it simply: Lahiri’s characters are Indian, but they are also Yuppies.
Sure, the immigrant parents in Lahiri’s stories might prefer it if their children were confined to Indian social networks, but that proves to be an impossible hope in this new America, the one in which Neil Klugman’s children would have grown up alongside Gogol Ganguli and George Herbert Van Wasp III. In this world, dress matters, home decor matters, and a Brooklyn vs. a Manhattan address says something about who you are–artsy or professional–but judging someone because of the language their parents speak at home? Totally gauche.
That’s Lahiri’s starting point. From childhood on, her second-generation Indians befriend and are befriended by their white classmates; they go with them to parties and smoke cigarettes and pot and get drunk and compete for spots in the Ivy League with them. And, eventually, many of Lahiri’s characters date, sleep with, marry, and have children with non-Indians.
And then they move to Montclair.