In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
When I was a child, my mom took my sister and me to Spanish lessons each week for something like a year or two (I honestly don’t remember). She was determined that we would grow up to be bilingual. Well, after Spanish lessons as a child, Spanish 1 and 2 in high school, and Intermediate Spanish in College, I’m still not bilingual. I’ve had trouble explaining to my mom why that is, especially since I spent a summer with my best friend’s family, who is Hispanic. After marrying The Chancellor (who majored in Spanish in college and is bilingual) and reading this book, I definitely understand why. Language is nuanced and complex.
Jhumpa Lahiri has been one of my favorite authors since I was in college. Her short story collection Interpreter of Maladies and novel The Namesake are absolutely my favorite works by her. So when I heard she was coming out with a memoir, I was delighted. When I heard it was a memoir translated from Italian, I was bewildered. What? Jhumpa Lahiri speaks Italian? That’s crazy-awesome. This memoir is less about her life and more about her life process learning to become fluent in Italian. Lahiri writes in Italian and does not translate herself, because she wishes to remain immersed in the process for which she has fought. And I deeply admire this determination.
If you are a lover of languages or have tried to become fluent in another that is not your native tongue, you will probably appreciate this memoir as much as I did. Or, if you are a Lahiri fan, you will probably also appreciate it. A note of warning, though: if you are new to Lahiri, this is not the place to start! Go with The Namesake or Interpreter of Maladies.