Interpreter of Maladies: Finished
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as it might have been in the author's imagination 50 years ago.
I enjoy stories about everyday life, there are always things you can learn/appreciate from them, even if it's just how different other people's lives are. But I already know my life is unlike anything from 50 years ago, so I didn't get anything from this.
Of all the Indian-American writing out there, I rarely ever recommend Lahiri to other readers. I think she's a writer's writer with her techniques and writing style. And, yes, her stories here did not explore any groundbreaking themes. But, as a writer, she went deeper into some of her themes than many others do.
For me, she straddles the first wave of Indian-American women writers (Bharati Mukherjee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, et al) and the second wave (Nina McConigley, Jade Sharma, et al). She came along when readers were getting a bit tired of the first wave writers for simply writing about the same things: arranged marriages, immigration, assimilation, etc. So there was a gap and she fit that somehow at the time for those of us who needed to read about people like us.
This second wave, though, is writing about other issues. They're not so fixated on arranged marriages and immigrant assimilation. They're writing about somewhat more universal themes like: personal agency, sexual identity, religion, etc. It's not that the first wave writers ignored these issues, it's just that they did not put them front and center like these second wave writers are doing. And it's also not as if the second wave writers are ignoring the issues of marriage and assimilation but they're not making them the main themes or, if they are, they're exploring them differently.
So, to me, that's the major difference. It's not about stories that were valid 50 years ago and are not now. For me, the stories haven't changed that much. The lens/perspectives through which they are being explored, and the language that is being used to do so -- these have definitely evolved. As, of course, they should.
So, I think that what Lahiri has done, first of all, is bring a greater/wider readership and awareness of the Indian-American experience through her writing. As I wrote in an earlier comment, she filled a gap that had begun to develop after that first wave of Indian-American writers. I am hoping that those who have enjoyed her work will try some of the other Indian-American writers too. There are so many different stories being told in so many new, exciting ways.