[journals] 8/6 Midterms and Lahiri's Fiction


[journals] 8/6 Midterms and Lahiri's Fiction

October 2016


Yet again I find myself putting down some thoughts as the plane gently rumbles. The plane is headed towards Las Vegas where my dad is waiting. We are attending an ingredients and a baking equipment conference, looking for some new machines.

I feel a mixture of tiredness and excitement at the moment. The excitement is from that feeling of being on the road after weeks of being buried in the familiar. The tiredness is from the two midterms I had earlier in today. I felt the most immense joy as I walked out of VLSB and towards the BART station, basking in the rays of a setting autumn sun.

Yesterday, it was around one in the morning and I had planned to go to bed and get up early to study. But I ended up falling under the entrance of Lahiri’s prose, losing track of time as I entered the world of Gogol and a community of Bangladeshi immigrants in America. I stopped twice to head out to the balcony and smoke a camel crush. And perhaps another two times for a glass of water. 

Besides this it was a trance, and when I turned the last page it was four thirty in the morning. 


I collapsed into bed last night, readjusting my alarm from seven to eight am so that I’d get at least three hours of sleep. The difference between two and three hours of sleep is colossal. Three hours is manageable, comparable to biking up a hill on a ten gear bike. Two hours leaves me feeling like a titanic container ship exiting the port, excruciatingly attempting to pick up velocity. 

Waking up this morning I felt pressed to study and I quickly drained a coffee but the caffeine seemed unable to penetrate the thick fog of fatigue. I smoked a camel and drank some more coffee. At this point, I was feeling much more awake but I’d attribute this to less to the coffee and camel, and more to that wave of stress that hits you with only an hour and a half left to study.


I love Lahiri’s fiction because it speaks so strongly to me. Her characters are generally educated, middle-upper class, young adults who are coming of age. I cry with her. I despair with her. I laugh with her. I rejoice. I rue. I experience triumph. Lahiri takes her readers through the nuances of living as a second generation immigrant in America. I appreciate the way she illuminates our inner lives and I walk away feeling mightier.

In addition to her novel the Namesake, I also checked out a collection of critical commentaries edited by Floyd Cheung and Lavina Dhingra. It’s stunning to see the types of conversations happening within our communities. We are so sophisticated. So articulate. So elegant. So complex. 

Below is one of my favorite excerpts from the text:

“Instead, all human experience is ethnic experience in the sense that ethnicity simply signifies cultural practices and forms of belonging. While those practices differ in culturally specific ways, negotiating the terms of such belonging maybe be a human universal. To be clear: this is not to deny the uneven distribution of burdens and privileges across different groups and within them- the differences that enable some to belong more than others… Lahiri’s sustained deployment of intertextuality suggests that- across cultural and geographic locations- to live, to love, and to move is to be unable to hold on to tradition in any pure or uncomplicated way”

If you haven’t already, check out Lahiri’s collection of short stories “The Interpreter of Maladies” and her novel “The Namesake.”