It is wonderful to find a book that you can connect with- to find yourself engulfed in the plot, wishing that the story would never end. “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri is one novel that at first glance caught my interest, and I related to the storyline like never before. Lahiri portrays her life story through the main character, Gogol, who must find his true identity between his parent’s indigenous Indian culture and the American lifestyle that he experiences in Boston, Massachusetts from the time he was born in 1968.
As I began to read the novel, immediately I found that the life of one of the characters mirrored my mom’s journey. Both had an arranged marriage within two weeks of meeting their future spouse, both came to a foreign country with no family or acquaintances to communicate with and both entered motherhood at a young age with no assistance.
I related personally to the characters as well as I am a first-generation American, and had to assimilate into American culture while simultaneously adhering to the Indian values my parents instilled in me. Gogol is burdened by the weight his unusual name carries on him throughout his life, but as he learns the sentimental purpose and meaning behind his name, it changes his perspective on life. As I read the novel, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing at certain parts because this multicultural literature brought up topics that so well discussed aspects of Indian culture that are so prominent and frequently criticized by other Indians. Lahiri describes the life experience of each of the three main characters beautifully, while demonstrating the struggle each character faced in a foreign country. Though reading assignments in English class often center around the classics, giving students choices of modern multicultural literature can inspire them to appreciate reading just like I did through my experience with “The Namesake.”
Books give you the opportunity to experience different journeys through various points of view and also offer insightful life lessons that broaden one’s perspective of life. From “The Namesake,” I learned the importance of finding and preserving my own identity in such a diverse country while simultaneously incorporating the Western lifestyle. Reading multicultural literature has opened my eyes to unique traditions and customs from all of the world simply by opening a book. Books offer important lessons, yet it is up to the reader to apply knowledge and insights gained to his or her own life towards shaping their own life. Numerous studies prove the vital impact reading has on a person’s mental development, but the emotional benefits of reading are also noteworthy, as voracious readers know so well.
A recent study on the neurological benefits of reading conducted at Emory University reported that being engaged in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. These changes caused by reading are connected to an area of the brain called the left temporal cortex, which is related to receptivity for language. Although reading has positive effects, the Pew Research Center reported that 42 percent of college graduates will never read a book again after graduating college because at this point in life, reading is now a leisure activity driven by personal enrichment, not a mandatory assignment by a professor.
Statistics may show the scientific value of reading, but the adventures, literary friends and life lessons learned can never be quantified. For these reasons and many more, get lost in a good book this summer and open your mind to new experiences.