Friday, June 29, 2007
Find something exciting in a magazine, newspaper, or perhaps an entire book? Well write about it here in the Book of the Week. Change the name of the column, flip it around and do whatever makes you happy. This column is a way to share what interests you in different forms of writing. Take some time, read some more, write.
Fueled by my current listening of Bollywood singer, Lata Mangeshkar, I decided to recommend a book I finished reading a couple of months ago. Taking place in multiple time periods but connected by a common thread, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake is a novel worth spending time with.
The Namesake begins with the birth of the main character of the story, Gogol Ganguli. Immediately Jhumpa Lahiri’s detailed and emotional writing transports the reader into the lives of the Ganguli’s. The Gangulis are a Bengaline family from Calcutta, India. We learn not only the life and struggles of Gogol, a child of immigrants, as he makes his way into the world, but also the events in his parent’s lives that helped shape who they are.
The story can be seen as an immigrant tale showing the constant hardships for not only immigrants in America, but for their American born children. Often native born American citizens forget the struggles that immigrants are forced to experience. The Namesake shows the fortunes gained as well as the extreme loneliness and isolation felt in becoming an American. Are immigrants ever truly "Americanized?"
The story has an even stronger theme of family. Family in Bengali culture is a core component in everyday life. As children grow, they never fully leave their family although often it is this constant reliance on the family that may hinder them later on.
Gogol is a character that gets beneath the readers skin and causes them to want to scream some sense in his head. Jhumpa Lahiri thoroughly develops each character to the point where both their actions and words are understood, even if not agreed with. What I truly enjoyed in The Namesake were the family relations. The Gangulis try to continue raising their family in a traditional Bengali way, and their children become the ones to break out of that mold.
I could relate to Gogol's problems as a teenager, not being fully understood by adults and trying to realize his place in the world outside of his family. The realistic portrayal of the Ganguli's remind me of people I know and of a life that I never had to lead, as an immigrant and having two homelands, the one of your people and the one of your family.
Although I wouldn't call this book light and airy, why not have a little depth in your summer reading or your reading in general? If you happen to be the Goldilocks in your literary choosing, then here's a book for you. It's not too dark and not too light but just right.