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.