What’s in a name?

One of my favorite book is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love this book because it is a realistic portrayal of obstacles that many immigrants like myself have struggled with as a child, an adolescent and a teenager:  the pressing need to retain our cultural identity while assimilating into the American culture. Many of us have fought long and hard to obey our parents’ wishes or commands of staying true to our culture, tradition and heritage. Personally, it was a difficult journey for me as a young child because the other kids made me feel ashamed and uncomfortable about who I was since I didn’t dress, sound , look or fit in with them.  If I was writing a book about my years in elementary as an immigrant in an American school I would call it:  Silent and Mute because I was trying to call attention to myself as little as possible.  I figure if I didn’t talk then the kids couldn’t laugh at my thick accent and snicker with their friends at my attempt of speaking the English language.  I hated the way I sound when I spoke English because to my ears, I sounded funny and stupid. 

Besides being ashamed of my accent, I also hated my name ( Anousone) which I changed the spelling to Anasone because people had a difficult time pronouncing it when I spelled it the other way.  Some kids and teachers would call me Anacin, Answan, or Anouson knee.  I rarely corrected them when I was in grade school and middle school because they would forget anyways and went back to mispronouncing it. 
The main character in the book, Gogol had the same problem as I did.  He hated his name because people couldn’t pronounce it so he changed his name when he goes off to college to Nikhil ( later shorten to Nick) because he wanted to start over.  He was trying to fit in and he thought by changing his name it would make his life easier.  Besides changing his name so he can be more American, he also fought against his culture and traditions.  I have to admit that I used to be the same way in elementary, Junior High and even high school because I was trying too hard to fit in with the rest of the crowd instead of standing out. 

If your are interested in reading the book, here’s a description of the story on the back cover of the book:

Meet the Ganguli family, new arrivals from Calcutta, trying their best to become Americans as they pine for home. The name they bestow on their firstborn, Gogol, betrays all the conflicts of honoring tradition in a new world— conflicts that will haunt Gogol on his own winding path through divided loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs.

Of course there is a movie in case you do not want to read it.  I have not watched the movie yet because I am afraid the movie will not live up to the book.  However, after reading and seeing the previews I will definitely watch the movie.


5 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Dallas

    Hiya, LT!

    How come you didn’t just change to Anna? Anousone—>Anasone—->Anna

    You know I never notice about accent. Maybe I came here when I was very young. well not that young. I started 2nd grade here in US. I was suppose to be in 3rd grade. There weren’t any Lao or other immigrants at my school either. I think being young, isolated from other Lao, and surrounded my all English speaking kids helps me learn the language quicker and eliminate any accent.

    I have Lao co-worker who is about the same age and been here about the same time he got some thick accent. He came from Amarillo. You know there are many Lao people there.

    Oh the name thing……teacher and kids can’t pronounce my name either. I didn’t think it was that hard at all. ….. is not difficult to pronounce but I have to deal with it all the way to Junior High. I was in a football team. The coach thought my name was too long and stated calling me ….. The name stuck.

  2. Laotian Teacher

    Hi, Dallas! Actually, my workers call me Ana. I also started school in second grade and my siblings and I were the only Laotians at that school. Just like you I quickly learned the language, but I was embarrassed to speak it because I was afraid I was not doing it incorrectly.

    Personally, I don’t think my accent is thick at all! Some of my friends tease me and say I sound like that kid from the Goonies.

    I used to live in Clovis, New Mexico and we would go to Amarillo every weekend to shop and socialize with other Lao people. What is your friend’s name?

    Dallas, you have a very nice name. It reminds me of those old Laotian folktales I used to watch with my mom… you know those movies about the beginning of Laos and its ruler. Your name Sengratana sounds like a king’s name. Do you know why your parents gave you that name.

    Were you a running back or a receiver?

  3. Dallas

    You have to forgive on the folktales. I am not familiar with it. I would love to read or see it if you can tell me where to get it.

    I have 3 other siblings. Our name was given to us by a monk.

    For some reason I was 1 of the big kid in our junior high so I got to play lineman. In high school is when all of them started to catch up and got even taller and bigger. So that is when I switch to soccer. LOL!

  4. Laotian Teacher


    We would go to Amarillo to rent those long Laotian sagas on the weekend and then take it back the next weekend.

    I think that’s great that the monks give you and your siblings your names.

    Soccer is big down here in Yuma because a lot of my Mexican students love the sports, girls and boys. Our football team’s kicker is in fact also a soccer player. He was recruited because he could kick so far.

    I’m excited about the movie because of those two actors as well as the fact that it is a martial arts movie.

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