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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

Jhumpa Lahiri visited MIT today! by Melis A. '08

...and all of Cambridge (it seemed) wanted to see her!

There are only a few authors whom I feel very strongly about, let alone love, and Jhumpa Lahiri is one of them. The Pulitzer Prize winning author of the books Interpreter of Maladies (1999) and The Namesake (2003) spent this evening at MIT. Though she was born in London and raised in Rhode Island, Lahiri spent some of her childhood in Boston and consequently her books include countless references to Boston, including MIT, Harvard, and Central Square. But anyone could write fiction about Boston. Jhumpa Lahiri’s books are about families, relationships, and cultural differences. She has one of the most elegant writing styles and her stories are often simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw a poster advertising her upcoming MIT visit, which was sponsored by the MIT Literary Society. I literally jhumped for joy (ouch, yea, bad one.) The timing of the talk wasn’t great; it started at 7 pm and I have a class in the Longwood Medical Area (a 15-minute drive from MIT) that ends at 6:30 pm. I knew I wasn’t likely to get a good seat, but when I arrived at the Stata Center, there was this gigantic line of millions of people (ok, more like hundreds) and I realized I probably wouldn’t even get in. Sadly, even though the talk was held in one of the biggest lecture halls at MIT, there were far more fans than seats. Luckily, they had set up two TV screens right outside of the lecture hall, so I parked myself on Stata’s concrete floor and craned my neck to see the TV.

After a brief introduction, Lahiri began by reading one of the eight stories in her new book, Unaccustomed Earth, for forty minutes. I videotaped a small, random portion of it. To watch it, click here

My general impression was that the subject matter was very similar to her other stories, but it was still insightful, entertaining, and moving. The book comes out on April 4th, and she’ll actually be in Brookline, MA on April 3rd for a book signing.

I’m pretty bummed that I couldn’t meet her, or get her to sign the two books that I brought along, or even get to sit inside of the lecture hall. There was also an awesome tea and Q&A session that the Literature department held at 4:30 pm, where about thirty-five students got to speak with Lahiri and get their books signed. Sadly, I found out about it too late and I was in class anyway =(

Anyway, I’m offering yet another book recommendation. After you’ve read her books, go see the movie, The Namesake. It’s not nearly as good as the novel (you know how it goes), but it’s still worth watching.

18 responses to “Jhumpa Lahiri visited MIT today!”

  1. Sid says:

    The Namesake, honestly, goes right on top of my all-time favourites, along side The Kite Runner. There are some absolutely fantastic dialogues in the book and the movie, which are reverberating and real.


    That I think is the key here. Reality. Blatant, sheer reality…

  2. Jorge says:

    I’ve seen the movie and I liked it, but it seems its time to read the book.

  3. Unfortunately I havent heard of Jhumpa Lahiri but I will definately look for her books once I’m done with “The Fountainhead” smile (love this book btw)

  4. Oasis says:


    Her books are amazing. If you haven’t read it, seriously go read it.

    And I do agree with you, Namesake (the movie) cannot compare to the book…the book is so powerful, so real. Perhaps it’s also because I’m also caught in between two cultures, but somehow I sympathize with Lahiri’s characters. Her writing is powerful.

  5. Oasis says:

    Just clarifying, the first “you” refers to people in general, not “you” as in what “you” is supposed to mean, haha.

    I just re-read it and it sounded like I’m questioning whether you actually read the book lol =p

    Anyways, minor point. smile

  6. Grace '11 says:

    aww melis! if you’d wanted me to ask her to sign your books at tea, i would have! but i think most people hoped she would stay after the reading and sign

  7. :D says:

    OMG, SO COOL! I can’t wait for her new book.

  8. nitiN says:

    she’s an amazing writer…if you haven’t read the interpreter of maladies yet, go read it. It’s a strange story, but it’s really really good and intriguing at the same time.

  9. zach says:

    The Namesake was one of the few movies I’ve found to be comparable to the book it was made from.(still not as good)

    Was one of the reasons it was so crowded that a lot of students from other Boston universities came? Or do MIT students just love Jhumpa Lahiri?

    Speaking of that, the following are questions I have regarding the subject of the many universities in Boston:

    Do you find that you interact with other students in the Boston area very much?

    Are there events such as this one hosted by other universities that you are able to take advantage of?

    If I should be asking someone else these questions, let me know… Thanks

  10. zach says:

    btw, the “jhumped” joke was totally sweet. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – bad jokes rock.

  11. anon says:

    yea i read her books especially interpeter of maladies in my ap literature class

  12. le-yo says:

    have you noted there is always a dude/dudette whose comments or rather responses are always to be “first” hey melis, beep me before your next blog or tell snively to sent me an IM.

    len from kenya.

  13. Kamya says:

    I loooooved the namesake…maybe it’s because I’m an ‘international’ Indian myself, or maybe it’s just because she’s an awesome writer! her stories are very poignant…wow what other authors visit MIT??!!
    This has made me want to get in 100000000x more…

  14. Priya says:

    Ahh, The Namesake is my favorite! I even mentioned in my application! Awesomeness — I am so jealous of you, Melis.

  15. Grace '11 says:

    @zach, mit students do love jhumpa lahiri, but there were a lot of non-students and non-mit people there (i heard it was advertised at harvard too)

  16. Steph says:

    I will definitely check her books out.

  17. Adithya says:

    Jhumpa Lahiri was raised in the USA by a mother who wanted her daughter to be an Indian.

    Ha. Ha. Ha. Funny!