Biography of Jhumpa Lahiri (1967-)
Born Nilanjana Sudeshna to Bengali Indian immigrants in London, Jhumpa Lahiri moved with her family to the United States when she was three years old. She grew up in Kingston, Rhode Island and earned a B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989. She went on to earn an M.A. in English, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, an M.A. in Comparative Literature, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies from Boston University. From 1997-98, she held a fellowship at Provincetown's Fine Arts Work Center.
In 1999, Lahiri published her first short story collection entitled Interpreter of Maladies. It dealt with the issues of Indians or Indian immigrants, including their generation gaps in understanding and values. The protagonist in The Third and Final Continent, the last of the Interpreter of Maladies, is based on Jhumpa's father, librarian Amar Lahiri. While American critics praised the short story collection, Indian critics were hot and cold. Some of them felt that the collection represented Indians negatively. Interpreter of Maladies was awarded the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and sold 600,000 copies.
Lahiri married journalist Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush in 2001. They had two children: Octavio in 2002 and Noor in 2005. The family currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
In 2003, Lahiri published her first novel, The Namesake, originally a novella in The New Yorker. It is the story of the Ganguli family, comprised of parents who immigrated to the United States from Calcutta and of their children, Gogol and Sonia, raised in the USA. The story follows the family over the course of thirty years in Calcutta, Boston, and New York.
She published another collection of short stories called Unaccustomed Earth in 2008. With this collection, Lahiri broke from her previous literary focus on first-generation Indian immigrants to the United States and their family problems. The stories in Unaccustomed Earth focus instead on the second and third generations of immigrants and their assimilation into the culture of the United States.
Lahiri has published many short stories in The New Yorker including "Cooking Lessons: The Long Way Home" in 2004; "Improvisations: Rice" in 2009, and "Reflections: Notes from a Literary Apprenticeship" in 2011.
She has won many awards, including the TransAtlantic Award from the Henfield Foundation (1993), the O. Henry Award for the short story "Interpreter of Maladies" (1999), the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best Fiction Debut of the Year for the Interpreter of Maladies collection, and most recently the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award (2008) and the Asian American Literay Award (2009), both for Unaccustomed Earth.