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New York Awards 2003

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Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize—acclaim a less-dazzling writer might have spent a decade trying and failing to match. Instead, Lahiri’s first novel, The Namesake, is a full flowering of her talent. Writing about immigrants torn between cultures, she displays the knowingness of the native with the newcomer’s openness to every detail. The title character, Gogol Ganguli, the New England–raised, Ivy-educated son of middle-class Bengali immigrants, is named for the Russian author, and like his creator, who comes from a similar background, Gogol the grown-up architect winds up in New York. Enchanted yet puzzled by the city, he falls into a fruitless marriage to another alienated Bengali (whose friends’ obsessions with designer sheets and wheatless diets are disturbingly familiar). Lahiri herself, now raising a son in Park Slope with her Guatemalan-Greek journalist husband, seems to have had an easier time of it. But her beautifully rendered antihero reminds us of the outsiders we all really are—children of immigrants, cultural hybrids, standout strivers who still sometimes get lost in the crowd. —BORIS KACHKA


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