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The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri

Title: The Namesake

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Plot: Ashima is waiting to meet her future husband, Ashoke Ganguli, in Calcutta, India. It’s an arranged marriage. He seems nice and not long after they are married, they move to Massachusetts where Ashoke has taken a professor job at MIT. Ashima is scared and withdrawn. She rarely leaves their apartment. They are soon pregnant. As per Bengali tradition, they wait for their parent’s letter to see what their child’s name will be. But the letter never arrives. It is news to Ashima and Ashoke that they have to name their child before they leave the hospital. In Bengali culture, it can take weeks to name the child. Ashoke quickly decides to name their child, a boy, Gogol. As Gogol grows up, the story’s point of view switches to him. When he starts school, he refuses to be called by his official name, Nikhil, which his parents switch unofficially on papers. He struggles with finding balance between American culture and his parent’s Indian culture. He gains a sister, Maxine. As he grows older, he starts to distance himself from his parents and their culture. Even when they visit family in India, it doesn’t feel right to him. When Gogol starts college, he legally changes his name to Nikhil, or Nick for short. He is unsure of his major at first. That changes when they visit the Taj Mahal during a trip to India. He switches his major to architecture. After arriving home late after his train was delayed, he finds his father pacing anxiously. Only then does he learn of how he earned his birth name. After some relationships and the death of his father, Nick bows to his parent’s request and marries a Bengali woman whom is the daughter of his parent’s friends. They settle into a routine. They travel and become distant. His wife has an affair. They divorce and Nick goes to discover who he really is.

Rating: 3.0 – this was a good read about another culture

Opinion: I enjoyed this book. I read it for two different college classes. While it wasn’t the most thrilling book, it’s really good. I learned a lot about Bengali culture. If I was unsure of something in the book, I asked a coworker, who is Bengali. She happily answered all of my questions. This book shows the struggle of second generation immigrants, those who’s parents immigrated from another country. It shows the struggle they can face. They often struggle with two different cultures, their parents and the country’s they now live in. They struggle with the stereotypes of their parent’s home country and keeping up with a second language. It was nice to read a book from a second generation author and is Bengali herself. So she writes from experience. I enjoyed reading the book written through the eyes of a second generation person. This book is also a movie by the same name. I think the movie is a very good adaptation of the book. It stays true to the book. If you’re looking for a book about another culture, then I highly recommend this book. Or if you’re looking for a book about second generation people, then this would be a great book for you.

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