Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth

I chose Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri mostly because I loved the title and the cover. I know, it is revealing the simplicity within myself to say that, but it is nevertheless true. I did not, nor do I plan to, research these books before I read them. I only choose them as I somewhat randomly take one in my hand and open to it's first page.

I have already read Unaccustomed Earth before I began this blog so my details will probably be a little fuzzy and less in depth than say, for example what I may write about future books while I read them.

This novel was literally art with words. The writing had a depth that grew flowers. There is a series of about five stories and although each ended in some sort of loss of soul, the beauty rested in the way she wrote. These are tales of displacement; of a culture rarely written about in novels. So the question is, why did my grandfather choose this novel? It could be as simple as a reccomendation or a day of browsing book shops, but he clearly chose a novel with an extremely talented author; an author in the realm of Remarque, though slightly less grotesque, but poetic in a natural sense as if she were born to write.

The idea of displacement, of never fully belonging where you currently stand is interesting to me. In my own life I experience this dichotomy as I am sure, you as the reader have felt as well. My grandparents, their history and knowledge and learning, represents to me a place I belong. And yet, my parents belong somewhere else; a place where you work and marry young and have children; a place with more disfunction, but perhaps a bit more warmth?

I married at 23 and had two children by 27, in that way I am more like my mother. By 23 I had a Bachelor's of Art in Literature, a teaching credential, and a Master's of Science in Education; in that way I am more like my grandparents. I never fully feel at home without striving for more knowledge, to add to the world in some dynamic way and yet I never fully feel quite at home as an academic either. I am displaced, which is what happens when families experience trauma and members stray and marry others; they become disconnected and rebellious and the children suffer.

In some ways I feel like there may have been some displacement in my grandparent's marriage, perhaps all marriages. There is a photograph of more than 50 years ago when they were married. On my grandmother's side of the photo were her parents, Russian I believe? They look proper and kind and maybe slightly a bit too serious, too concerned. On my grandfather's side, his father is shorter, round and jolly, smoking a cigar and next to him a woman stood, fun and lively; dressed well. I believe they were from Poland? The two sides seem uterly opposite and I wonder how it felt to combine those personalities.

My grandparents are children of immigrants. I wonder how they experienced their own parents' displacement from the countries of their birth. I imagine that in a positive way both my grandparents were given knowledge about a world beyond where they currently lived, perhaps two languages as well. In this way it would make sense that even if there was not such a cultural influence in the Jewish tradition, these children may have been drawn to thinking outside of the box.

Overall, I thought this book to be one of the most well written novels I have read. She mostly writes of deep sorrow, of loosing oneself, of gaining nothing, and yet in her world of loss and fuzziness, there lies beauty in the words the author chooses to express the soul and it's search for a home. When the novel ended I wanted to immediatly go read The Namesake, her other more famous novel, but alas I cannot, for there are more books in the shelf I must read.


  1. It looks as though you must have a google account to post a comment, but I am working on figuring this out. I would love my readers to be able to post comments easily.

  2. You can change that in your settings... Not sure exactly where...

  3. Test comment posted by Rob.

  4. this book sounds amazing and totally relatable. i believe as u said we all feel displacment in our lives, ecspecially as stahm because we are not always able at that point to excercise all of our God given talents, which can leave us feeling displaced at times and frustrated. this may b one i might have to pick up.