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New honour for Jhumpa Lahiri's book

Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Interpreter of Maladies has been named for the One Book, One Chicago programme.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2006 18:40 IST

Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Interpreter of Maladies has been selected for a major book celebration programme in Chicago.

Lahiri's collection of nine short stories has been named for the 'One Book, One Chicago' programme.

Started in 2001, 'One Book, One Chicago' is a programme to encourage all Chicagoans to read the same book at the same time and discuss a great piece of literature with friends and neighbours. Two books are selected for the programme each year.

The stories in Lahiri's 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning book are set in India and the United States and talk about the lives of first and second-generation Indians in the US and their struggle to adapt to the new culture around them.

Making the announcement, Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley said, "These challenges have been faced by generations of Chicagoans, regardless of their ancestry. I think many of the stories will have a familiar ring."

"These stories also remind us that immigrants are just like native-born citizens. They fall in and out of love, laugh and cry, make friends and enemies and sometimes have trouble creating a place that feels like home," Daley said.

Reacting to the book's selection, Lahiri told the Chicago Sun-Times, "It's a tremendous honour. I'm thrilled. It's my first book and it already feels old to me. It's wonderful to give it new life in this way."

Speaking over phone from her parents' home in Providence, Rhode Island, the 39-year-old Indian American writer said that first-generation immigrants tend to react to it most closely.

"Other people who have immigrant histories in their families will tend to connect to the stories on that level, feeling something that they didn't experience, their parents didn't experience, but is part of their history as Americans. I hope when it's read in Chicago that will be the case," she told the Sun-Times.

Daley said it is fitting that the book was chosen at a time when the nation and Congress are struggling to resolve the great immigration debate.

Prior to this, 10 books were selected for the programme, including To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Lahiri's book figures in the 11th edition of the programme and is only the second book of short stories to be selected after Stuart Dybek's The Coast of Chicago.

To celebrate the book, a series of programmes are being organised across the city of around three million people, which has a large population of Indian Americans.

On September 14, Lookingglass Theatre ensemble will perform dramatic readings from the book at the Chicago Cultural Centre. On October 9, Lahiri will discuss Interpreter of Maladies with Chicago Public Library commissioner Mary Dempsey at the Harold Washington Library Centre.

The next day, she will speak to Chicago Public School students who participate in Mayor Daley's High School Book Club.

Around 2,000 copies of the book, besides dozens of audio-books on CD are already available at the 79 locations of the Chicago Public Library.