Shuchen Susan Huang
Of Bengali immigrant parents, Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London in 1967. Two years later, her family immigrated to the United States. She grew up in South Kingston, Rhode Island, where her father worked as a librarian and her mother taught Bengali at a university. Like many children of immigrant households, Lahiri spoke Bengali to her parents at home. Her knowledge of the language made easy her stay in Calcutta, where her parents took her and her younger sister for long visits during her youth. She did not feel like a typical tourist in India in part because she spoke the language and in part because her family always stayed in the homes of their extended families. But she was also aware that she was perceived by the local people to be different. In an interview, Lahiri admits that she is indeed “indebted to [her] travels to India for several of the stories” (Aguiar) in her debut book, Interpreter of Maladies (1999). Though Lahiri speaks Bengali, English is really her first language in terms of writing. She started writing fiction when she was seven. In grade school, she collaborated with her friends in writing stories during recess. In high school, she wrote for the school newspaper, but did not compose fiction. In college, although she attended several writing workshops, she did not feel confident in writing stories.
Lahiri took a winding road to become a writer. After receiving her B.A. from Barnard College, she applied to several graduate schools but was rejected by all. While waiting to apply again, she worked as a research assistant at a non-profit institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The job gave her full access to a computer, which she discovered to be an excellent tool for writing. She came in early and stayed late in order to write. Eventually, she accumu-