A Conversation with Author Jhumpa Lahiri

Posted: September 15, 2023

By: English/Creative Writing and College of Arts and Sciences

Jhumpa Lahiri at Seattle University
Saturday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m., Pigott Auditorium
Tickets: $30 (includes a copy of the book)
Buy tickets here

Seattle University's Creative Writing Program and College of Arts & Sciences, in collaboration with Elliott Bay Book Company, invite you to join us for an evening with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, talking about her highly anticipated new book, Roman Stories, with Dr. Sonora Jha, author and SU professor.

The first short story collection by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author and master of the form since her number one New York Times best seller Unaccustomed Earth.  Rome—metropolis and monument, suspended between past and future, multi-faceted and metaphysical—is the protagonist, not the setting, of these nine stories.

In “The Boundary,” one family vacations in the Roman countryside, though we see their lives through the eyes of the caretaker’s daughter, who nurses a wound from her family’s immigrant past. In “P’s Parties,” a Roman couple, now empty nesters, finds comfort and community with foreigners at their friend’s yearly birthday gathering—until the husband crosses a line.

And in “The Steps,” on a public staircase that connects two neighborhoods and the residents who climb up and down it, we see Italy’s capital in all of its social and cultural variegations, filled with the tensions of a changing city: visibility and invisibility, random acts of aggression, the challenge of straddling worlds and cultures and the meaning of home.

These are splendid, searching stories, written in Jhumpa Lahiri’s adopted language of Italian and seamlessly translated by the author and by Knopf editor Todd Portnowitz. Stories steeped in the moods of Italian master Alberto Moravia and guided, in the concluding tale, by the ineluctable ghost of Dante Alighieri, whose words lead the protagonist toward a new way of life.

Jhumpa Lahiri, a bilingual writer and translator, is the Millicent C. McIntosh Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Barnard College (Columbia University). She received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, her debut story collection. She is also the author of The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth and The Lowland, which was a finalist for both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award in fiction.

Since 2015, Lahiri has been writing fiction, essays and poetry in Italian: In Altre Parole (In Other Words), Il Vestito dei libri (The Clothing of Books), Dove mi trovo (self-translated as Whereabouts), Il quaderno di Nerina and Racconti romani. She has translated three novels by Domenico Starnone and is the editor of The Penguin Classics Book of Italian Short Stories, which was published in Italy as Racconti Italiani. Lahiri received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2014 and in 2019 she was named Commendatore of the Italian Republic by President Sergio Mattarella. Her most recent book in English is a collection of essays entitled Translating Myself and Others, published in Spring 2022 by Princeton University Press. 

Sonora Jha is the author of the novels The Laughter (2023) and Foreign (2013) and the memoir How To Raise A Feminist Son: A Memoir and Manifesto (2021). The Laughter has earned rave reviews from The New York TimesThe New YorkerIndia Today and The Seattle Times and received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, BooklistBookpage and others. Sonora was formerly a journalist covering crime, politics and culture for the Times of India and for East Magazine, Singapore. She moved to the United States to earn a Ph.D. in Political Communication. Dr. Jha's essays and public appearances have featured in The New York Times, on BBC and in several anthologies. She is a professor of journalism at Seattle University and also teaches creative writing for Hugo House, Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, Creative Nonfiction and Seattle Public Library.