Eileen's Reviews > The Namesake

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
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Nov 26, 07

Read in November, 2007

Sometimes, when you read a story, the author will state the the story is true, but the names and details have been changed to protect the identity of the characters. Well, 'The Namesake' was clearly not a story about my life, but the novel was full of details from my life, all the little things that would have been changed if it was actually my story.
Really, the premise of our stories are similar. Asian parents move to the States and their kids grow up somewhere between the two cultures, not really fitting in with either. My family, of course, is not Bengali. My parents did not have an arranged marriage. My older sibling is not a brother named after a Russian author. However, there were some striking similarities that really started to unnerve me.
-Dad came to the States to get a PhD in engineering
-Mom came rather unwillingly to the States with her husband
-The five year difference between sibling one and sibling two
-The setting of the story, a suburb outside of Boston, could very possibly be the suburb where I grew up
-The house in which the children were raised: newly built, 3 bedroom, flagstone pathway
-The parents pretty much only had friends of the same ethnicity
-The parties where all the parents sat around speaking in their native tongue, while first generation children played and watched television in the basement, speaking English
-Being to speak your home language, but not being able to read or write
-The trips to the home country where the entire time is spent visiting relatives and listening to American music on your walkman
-How upset the mom got when main character goes off to college and refers to the dorm as 'home'
-The ABCD identity: in the book the phrase refers to American-born Confused/Conflicted Desi... (not American Born Chinese Dyke, obviously)
-The overabundance of food the mom cooks
-The mom's expectation for the adult kids to call every day and visit every weekend
-Confusion by others over the main character's ethnicity
-The older sibling never lives more than a few hours from the parents' house, while the younger one bounces all over the States
-Going to Paris with your Francophone partner who doesn't really interpret what other people are saying
-The books left in their bedrooms after the adult children have moved out of their parents' house
While reading the book, I got rather enraged at the main characters disregard for his culture and his parents. I think a lot of it was actually feelings of guilt, though, because I have often felt the same way and done the same things (i.e. not telling my mother I am actually going on vacation because I she will be upset I am not coming home to visit her).
All in all, the book was expectedly excellent.
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