3: Essay excerpt, Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Teach Yourself Italian,” 2015.
Jhumpa Lahiri is an American writer whose parents immigrated to the United States from India. Much of her fiction is concerned with the themes of immigration and migration, family history and continuity, and cultural identity. Several years ago, after experiencing a great deal of success as a writer in America, Lahiri moved to Italy and made the decision to begin to write only in Italian. In this essay she explains that decision, what led to it, and why she thinks she chose such an unusual path forward. Like Tsabari, Lahiri made a conscious choice to write in a non-native language to which she had no familial or cultural connection.
Suggested Activities: Read the excerpt together. Explain Lahiri’s family background and her decision to write in Italian. Discuss why a successful writer might make the choice to write in a second (or third) language. What are the advantages or disadvantages of writing in a language that is not native? What is the connection between English and Lahiri’s relationship with her parents? How is this related to her understanding of her own translingualism? What questions does Lahiri’s quotation raise about why Tsabari might choose to write in English?
Source: Jhumpa Lahiri, “Teach Yourself Italian,” The New Yorker, December 7, 2015, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/12/07/teach-yourself-italian.