The Namesake

by

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Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Title: The Namesake

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: September 16, 2003

Number of Pages: 291

Geographical Setting: Massachusetts, New York, and India

Time Period: 1968-2000

Series: No

Plot Summary: Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move from Calcutta, India to Massachusetts in the 1960’s.  They have their son in 1968.  He is given the “temporary” name of Gogol after the Russian author Nikolai Gogol.  After a series of mishaps, this “temporary” name becomes his “permanent” name.  As Gogol grows, he finds himself at odds with his parent’s traditional Indian lifestyle.  His experience as an American teen leads him to question how to balance both cultures and find his own identity.   Gogol believes these identity issues originate with his name so he legally changes it to Nikhil.  Thus begins the process of finding himself and understanding his place within two cultures.

Subject Headings: Literary fiction, Indian culture, Interracial relationships, Parent-child relationships, Multicultural

Appeal: Character-centered, deliberate, steady, familiar, introspective, multiple points of view, realistic, sympathetic, well-developed, complex, family-centered, layered, bittersweet, intimate, thoughtful, academic, literary.

3 Terms that best describe this book: Complex, multicultural, familial

3 Relevant Fiction Books and Why:

Brick Lane by Monica Ali (story centered on a Bangladeshi woman living according to traditional expectations and her experiences of being Bengali in London)

The Kite Runner by Khalid Hossenni (story follows an Afghan boy and his father from their life in Kabul through their lives in America)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (story focuses on four mother daughter relationships where the daughters do not quite understand their mother’s Chinese background.  They must all learn to appreciate the other generation’s experience)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Books and Why

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (The story of a young girls life with her family during the Islamic Revolution and their struggle with the strict laws they must follow.)

The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down by Anne Fadi (A Hmong family that has immigrated to Minnesota resists Western medicine to treat their epileptic child instead choosing to follow their traditional methods)

Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (Obama was born to a white mother and a Kenyan father.  He is raised by his mother in Hawaii but later chooses to explore his African heritage in order to more fully understand his identity)

Name: Madeline

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