Imagine arriving in a new country and facing the immense challenge of adjusting to a culture and a language that are different from the ones you have always known.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri — a first-generation immigrant to the United States who moved to Italy in her forties — has experienced firsthand the emotional and physical challenges that come with immigrating to a new country. Those are the experiences Lahiri draws on in her books, which force readers to consider the surprising and complex trials faced by immigrants and their families.
On Monday, December 5, Jhumpa Lahiri will join economist Tyler Cowen at George Mason University’s Arlington campus for a wide-ranging conversation as part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler series. Admission is free and the conversation will be open to the public.
Lahiri’s distinct talent and unique point of view make her a natural fit for Conversations with Tyler, a discussion series that engages today’s top thinkers in one-on-one conversations with economist Tyler Cowen. Past guests include tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, renowned academic Camille Paglia, and “super forecaster” Nate Silver.
Of Lahiri, Tyler Cowen says, “Her books have delighted millions, drawing together history, romance, philosophy, global interconnections, and most of all the drama of human life.”
Lahiri’s work also explores the tension many immigrants feel between the cultural values of their homeland and those of their adopted home. In a piece for the New Yorker, she wrote of feeling a “continuous sense of estrangement” from both her native country of India and America–the country where she was raised.
This sense of “exile” drove her to adopt another language entirely. Instead of attempting to embrace the American culture and language that felt as foreign as her native Indian, Lahiri moved to Italy and learned to speak and write in Italian. She embraced an entirely different culture and language and continues to be a successful author in Italian.
Lahiri’s most recent work, In Other Words (2016), an autobiography written in both English and Italian, explores the often emotionally fraught links between identity and language. Once again drawing upon personal experiences, Lahiri continues to strike a chord with readers.
Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her first published work “Interpreter of Maladies” (1999). She also received the PEN/Hemingway Award for best fiction debut of the year and an O. Henry Prize. In 2015, the National Endowment for the Humanities at the White House granted Lahiri the prestigious National Humanities Medal. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Princeton University in the Lewis Center for the Art’s Program in Creative Writing.
Register for “A Conversation with Jhumpa Lahiri” on Monday, December 5. The preceding was written and sponsored by the Mercatus Center.