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Jhumpa Lahiri Biography

Last Updated – 11 July 2019


Jhumpa Lahiri: Indian American Author

Jhumpa Lahiri Vourvoulias was born as Nilanjana Sudeshna on July1,1967 in London, and brought up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Jhumpa won the Pulitzer Prize in the year 2000 for Debut Fiction for her book Interpreter of Maladies, the first Asian to do so.

An Indian American author of Bengali origin, she did her Bachelors in English literature from Barnard College in 1989, following it up with an M.A. in English, an M.A. in Creative Writing, an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Boston University in the 1990’s and finally a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She was at Provincetown’s Fine Arts Work Center during 1997-1998 on a fellowship. She tied the nuptial knot with Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, a journalist in 2001, and now lives with her husband and their two children. Lahiri joined the Princeton University faculty on July 1, 2015 as a professor of creative writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts.

Jhumpa has also taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Her debut book, Interpreter of Maladies investigates issues concerning the lives of Indians or Indian immigrants. She has bagged several awards. In 1993, she received the TransAtlantic Award from the Henfield Foundation, the O. Henry Award for short story Interpreter of Maladies in 1999, the PEN/Hemingway Award (Best Fiction Debut of the Year) for Interpreter of Maladies in 2000, The New Yorker’s Best Debut of the Year for “Interpreter of Maladies” and the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2000, besides the coveted Pulitzer prize. Interpreter of Maladies has since been translated into 29 languages and been a bestseller in the United States and abroad.

In May 2000, her story The Third and Final Continent published in a summer 1999 fiction issue of The New Yorker was one of the three stories that fetched the magazine a National Magazine Award for Fiction. Her second book The Namesake was published in 2003. In 2006, a film, The Namesake was released based on the novel by the same name, starring Kal Penn.

Lahiri’s second collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, was released on April 1, 2008 which bagged  the rare distinction of debuting at number 1 on The New York Times best seller list and also received the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award (the world’s largest prize for a short story collection) and was a finalist for the Story Prize.

She contributed the essay on Rhode Island in the 2008 book State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America.

Her novel The Lowland (2013) was nominated as a finalist for both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award and earned Lahiri the 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

Lahiri was accorded a 2014 National Humanities Medal by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015.

Her nonfiction also includes The Clothing of Books  which was originally published in Italy as Il vestito dei libri. She has translated two books by Domenico Starnone: Ties, and Trick.

Lahiri’s book was a collection of essays she wrote in Italian while, titled In Altre Parole (In Other Words)(Feb. 2016), explores the often emotionally fraught links between identity and language.

Her novel written in Italian, Dove mi trovo, was published in Italy in Fall 2018.

In 2019, she edited The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories.