Thursday, July 27, 2006

August 2006 Pick: "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri

While the immigration issue seems to be on the back burner for a bit, the discussion of what it means to be American still lingers in the air. My family emigrated to the U.S. when I was just 10-days-old. We moved here from Hong Kong for the great American dream. My mom chose New York City because she had always seen it in movies and thought it looked like a great place. I was always aware that to be here was a privilege one should not take it lightly. I never thought we were any different until I went to school. While other kids ate chocolate cake and Twinkies my parents, who both grew up in British boarding schools, made sure I knew how to prepare tea and scones properly and that 4PM was the correct time for such delicacies. It was just one of the little things that made my family different from many of the Italian and Jewish families that mostly lived in my neighborhood by the sea in south Brooklyn.

This month, we’ve chosen a book that explores one writer’s perspective on what it means to become an American family. Nominated by CW Book Club Member, Katie Creighton, “The Namesake” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri is a refreshing look into the push/pull that comes from assimilation and the clash of generations all striving for the American dream. We join the the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their challenging transformation into Americans.

On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts rather quickly while his wife resists all things American and pines for her family. Naming their first son becomes a clash of old world values and new choices. They decide on naming him for a Russian writer in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Through Gogol the book unfolds as we walk with him as he stumbles along a first-generation path strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and heart-wrenching love affairs.

Please join us on Monday, August 21st at 7PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall to discuss this enchanting novel. Don’t forget to RSVP at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

do you know what the next bookclub pick is?