The Namesake (2004) by Jhumpa Lahiri is, again, a personal favorite. After reading it again, I relaized that it is an ordinary story of two generations of the Ganguli fmaily but this time, as an immigrant, I could connect more to the situations of Ashima Ganguli.
Themes: identity (Gogol and Gogol), home and the diaspora, immigrant, relationships (Gogol and his partners, Ashima and Ashoke, and the community of immigrants), and food.
The Kite Runner, the debut novel of Khaled Hosseni, narrates the story of Amir, a rich boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, and his unlikely friendship with Hassan, a Hazara son of the servant of the house, Ali.
Themes: class conflict; repetition of motif across generations- planting money under the mattress of Hassan and Wahid, Sohrab and Hassan pointing a slingshot at Aasef (254); home across spaces (Kabul, Afghanistan; Islamabad and Karachi, Pakistan; and San Francisco); male solidarity among the Afghan immigrants in SF; childbirth and adoption (Amir’s family in Afghanistan, surrogate father in Rahim Khan, Soraya’s infertility and the adoption of Hassan’s son, Sohrab); and family history and secrets (spoiler alert: Hassan is Amir’s half-brother, Soraya’s running away. her parents’ habits and manners (154)). Continue reading
Brick Lane by Monica Ali, an example of postcolonial immigrant fiction, describes the story of Nazneen and her family. She is born in Bangladesh and moves to Tower Hamlets, London with her older husband, Chanu. Brick Lane is the street at the heart of the Bangladeshi community in London. There are two narrators: Nazneen as a third person narrator and her sister, Hasina through her letters to Nazneen.
Themes: family (both the married family of Chanu and family in Bangladesh); female solidarity for both Nazneen and her sister, Hasina; racism and clash of cultures; food and eating; home; and knowledge and education (as seen in Chanu’s certificates and degrees). The idea of the home, the return to the home, the idea on how to make the new place a home are all central concerns in an immigration novel, and described in detail in Brick Lane. There is also the symbol of ice skating which is a fantasy for Nazneen, means of freedom, and which Nazneen accepts at the end of the text. Religion also plays an important part, along with enterprises (Chanu’s employment in the government and as a cab driver, later his soap business), Nazneen’s work as a seamstress, and later her work as a designer with Razia. Also there is Mrs. Islam’s usury where she charges a 33% interest. Spoiler alert- Chanu returns to Bangladesh alone, to open a soap industry. Nazneen’s lover, Karim is also rumored to have returned to Bangladesh. Hasina also runs away with the cook at her place of employment.
Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree by Tariq Ali sets up a basic duality of Islam and Christianity. It is the first of The Islam Quintet. also traces the history of the clan of Hassan Banu Hudayl, complete with a family tree at the beginning of the novel (Ali 6). Family trees are extremely helpful, as are glossaries at the end of a novel. However, both seem to be important feature in foreign texts where words are not understood or even characters are too many (Rushdie and Marquez’s novels). The pomegranate tree is situated in the courtyard of the family, where two generations of daughters (aunt and niece) fall in love and meet their lovers.