Conversations with Tyler: A Conversation with Jhumpa Lahiri

Tyler Cowen explores the world of ideas in one-on-one dialogues with today’s top thinkers.

Dec 05, 2016
Founders Hall Auditorium Arlington Campus at George Mason University 3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22201

Event Speakers

Tyler Cowen

Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University

Jhumpa Lahiri

Pulitzer Prize Winner and Professor of Creative Writing, Princeton University

“I think that the power of art is the power to wake us up, strike us to our depths, change us.”
- Jhumpa Lahiri in the New Yorker

A Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction author and commentator on the lives of immigrant families, Jhumpa Lahiri will join Tyler Cowen for a wide-ranging dialogue as part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler event series.

Lahiri's work highlights the unique difficulties faced by immigrants and their families. Whether describing the hardships of a lonely Indian wife adapting to life in the United States or illuminating the secret pain of a young couple as they discuss their betrayals during a series of electrical blackouts, Lahiri’s bittersweet stories provide a compassionate insight to the difficult lives immigrants lead as they adjust to life in America.

Drawing on her own experiences as a first-generation immigrant, Lahiri’s writing forces the reader to consider the unexpected challenges of immigrants who grew up in the United States. Lahiri describes one of those challenges as an “exile” from both her native country and the one she’s grown up in. Born in London to Indian emigrants, moved to the United States at two-years-old, Lahiri felt exiled from each culture. This drove her to adopt another language entirely. Instead of attempting to embrace the American culture and language that felt as foreign as her native Indian, Lahiri moved to Italy and learned to speak and write in Italian. She embraced an entirely different culture and language and continues to be an intriguing and successful author in Italian.

Lahiri’s most recent work In Other Words (2016), an autobiography written in both English and Italian, explores the often emotionally fraught links between identity and language. Once again drawing upon personal experiences, Lahiri’s work continues to strike a chord with readers.

Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her first published work “Interpreter of Maladies” (1999). She also received the PEN/Hemingway Award for best fiction debut of the year and an O. Henry Prize. In 2015, the National Endowment for the Humanities at the White House granted Lahiri the prestigious National Humanities Medal. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Princeton University in the Lewis Center for the Art's Program in Creative Writing.