The Namesake

by


Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Title: The Namesake
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publication Date: 2003
Number of Pages: 291
Geographical Setting: United States
Time Period: 20th Century
Series: No
Plot Summary: Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli arrive in Cambridge, Mass, from India, soon after their arranged marriage, and just as soon are expecting their first child. Upon his arrival, he is given the name Nikhil, but by family he is called Gogol, after the Russian writer whose stories Ashoke believes saved his life many years earlier. When Gogol starts school, his parents try to enforce that he be called Nikhil, but little Gogol refuses. This one early scene becomes emblematic of the struggle Gogol will face his whole life, as he tries to balance his Indian identity with an American boyhood and adolescence. Falling in love, attending school, managing adulthood and career and maintaining his relationship with his parents and sister are all dealt with in this vivid, intelligent book. Brilliant flashes into Indian culture are balanced with the introspection of Gogol’s very personal narrative. A brilliant read for anyone who appreciates stories focusing on details of other cultures, as well as anyone who appreciates the magical combination of vivid storytelling and moving, literary prose.
Subject Headings: India, Families, Parents, Immigrants, Coming of Age
Appeal: Densely written, bittersweet, realistic characters, strong secondary characters, character centered, details of Indian culture, literary, elegant, sophisticated, well-researched, literary references, introspective
Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: Bittersweet, Literary, Details of Indian Culture
Similar Works:
Fiction:

Brick Lane, Monica Ali (Indian Culture, focuses on the effect of arranged marriage and the woman’s role in the Indian family)
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy (prize winner, literary, Indian culture)
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (focuses on family relations in an immigrant family in America, reflective on other traditions)
Nonfiction:
The Girl from Foreign, Sadia Shepard (child searching for identity from how she was raised in America, dealing with Indian-American tensions)
Dreams from my Father, Barack Obama (dealing with a multicultural heritage, exploration of a family history)
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (pushing against parental expectation, coming of age)

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