Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri

Summary: A collection of short stories about American-raised children of Indian parents, taking place largely in the United States.

Musings: I am a big fan of Lahiri's first two works, Interpreter of Maladies and The NamesakeUnaccustomed Earth clearly follows in those two works' footsteps, exploring similar themes, particularly the strained relationships between parents and children, culture and assimilation, old and new.  Lahiri's skill, for me, lies in her ability to recognize and make apparent the complexities of human relationships and the ways in which relationships are challenged and broken by things unsaid.  That same skill is found in Unaccustomed Earth, but Unaccustomed also doesn't cover any new ground or explore anything different from her earlier works.  For this reason, I think I enjoyed the book less than I did her previous ones, as it seemed simply an addition to Interpreter rather than a separate work.

This book's focus is slightly different, as all the stories concern first generation Indian-Americans and none of the stories take place in India.  The stories also often explore the relationships between these children and their white partners or spouses.

Lahiri's stories all seem bound by sadness as people are unable to have the kind of relationships they want with their family, friends, or partners.  Lahiri does recognize some small moments of human connection, but they are often fleeting.  It made me wish that she was also able to recognize human moments of joy, which although rare, are part of the human experience as well.

***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.

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