Bengali Author Jhumpa Lahiri to Receive National Humanities Medal From Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama will award Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri the 2014 National Humanities Medal, which honours those who have widened the public’s engagement with literature and “deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience.”
Previous winners include Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and Indian economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who won it “for his insights into the causes of poverty, famine, and injustice.”
In a statement, the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent national agency that awards grants for cultural research, said that Ms. Lahiri had “illuminated the Indian-American experience in beautifully wrought narratives of estrangement and belonging.”
Her book “Interpreter of Maladies” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000. Ms. Lahiri, whose parents originate from West Bengal, was born in London but moved to the U.S. as a child making frequent trips to Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal.
Lahiri’s novel The Lowland, published in September’13 was among the books Obama took with him while vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, an island summer resort in Massachusetts, last month.
The Lowland is a story about two brothers who grew up in Calcutta in the 1960s. After one is killed, the other marries his pregnant widow and moves to the US. The New York Times calls the premise of this novel “startlingly operatic”.
“At many times in my life, I wished I could be like any other American . . . feel really a part of it, really woven into it,” “I couldn’t. I just couldn’t do it. And all of my writing has come out of that.” – Jhumpa said
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