Azar Nafisi on Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of short stories is centered on the paradoxes and tensions shaping the lives of different generations of Bengali immigrants in America. The stories are dazzling not just in the way they portray the differences between the old and new cultures and generations, or the clashes of two different sets of traditions and norms, at times as vast as the geographical distance that separates America from India, but the fact that we find ourselves sharing so much with strangers from a different world, and coming to the sudden revelation that we are alike in essentials despite the differences created by our nationality, ethnicity, religion, race or gender. We are drawn to the characters in these stories because of the universality of their experiences, evoking in us feelings of loss, grief, irony and at times despair, reminding us of the inadequacy of terms such as home and identity.