The Namesake is a New York Times Bestseller novel written by Jhumpa Lahiri. The book starts off with a woman, Ashima Ganguli, and her experience of giving birth. A third person narrates this story of a family of three, two immigrants and their first generation child. Personally, I thought that the narrative shifts greatly so far throughout the book. At the start, I was confused because I expected the book to be about a boy but it was about two married adults. As the story unwraps, the narration starts focusing more on Gogol, Ashima and Ashoke's son. The narrative takes some unexpected turns that I never would have imagined from the start of the book. So far, the book is so exciting and full of vivid description.
Personally, the book felt really relatable to me. As an immigrant from another Asian country, I felt the same things Ashima felt living overseas in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The vivid descriptions of the change in setting and Ashima's inner feelings really spoke to me. A friend pointed out a quote to me that initially resonated with me but I didn't pay much attention to. Rereading it again, I realize that it is hard to find more accurate descriptions of how I feel at times to this very day. The quote is: "For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding" (50). Although I have yet to experience pregnancy, I could perfectly relate to her experiences of waiting and feeling out of place. You always think it's temporary until you suddenly realize that in front of you is what your life is now. Another interesting fact is the similarities of the rice ceremony and a ceremony celebrated in my culture. In Chinese culture, when a baby turns 100 days old, the family will usually host a large lunch. Part of that lunch is setting out some items and seeing which the baby grabs onto. I grabbed the scissors. I found it interesting that countries that are actually not that close in geography can share such similar customs.
Here is a photo I found online from the Namesake movie. You can click on the photo watch the trailer! On the left is Gogol. As you can see, Gogol dresses like any other American teenager, but his parents, especially his mom, still wears her sari. It makes you wonder, can immigrants truly ever fully immerse into a culture?