Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri documented the lives and struggles of Indian immigrants like herself in such novels and short story collections as Interpreter of Maladies (1999), The Namesake (2003) and The Lowland (2013). Lahiri burst onto the literary scene at the dawn of the new millennium with Interpreter of Maladies, which became one of the few short story collections to win the Pulitzer. After winning the Pulitzer, she soon proved to be a skillful and prolific writer in several mediums, including novels like The Namesake, non-fiction essays on cooking for The New Yorker, and even academic material on Renaissance studies. Lahiri also served on the board of major literary organizations like the President's Committee on the Arts of Humanities, but her fiction remained her most potent showcase, where her stories of immigrant culture and assimilation into American society underscored her status as one of the modern literary world's most acclaimed figures.
Born Nilanjana Sudheshna Lahiri on July 11, 1967 in London, England, she was the daughter of Bengali parents who relocated to Kingston, Rhode Island when she was two years old. Her pen name, Jhumpa, was also her pet name, which in Bengali culture was used only by friends and family. However, it became her given name to Western outsiders when a kindergarten teacher decided to address her by that name when she found Lahiri's formal first name too difficult to pronounce. The embarrassment imposed upon her by her name and cultural identity would later inform much of her fiction, most notably The Namesake, whose protagonist, Gogol, also pained over his Indian name. After graduating from South Kingston High School, Lahiri received her bachelor's degree in English literature from Barnard College in 1989 and later multiple degrees, including her master's and doctorate, from Boston University.
Lahiri made an impressive debut in 1999 with Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories that received excellent reviews in America. The book was awarded the O. Henry Award for its title story before becoming one of seven short story collections to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. After marrying journalist Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush in 2001, Lahiri's first novel, The Namesake, followed in 2003, with a film adaptation by director Mira Nair reaching theaters four years later. Lahiri appeared briefly in the picture as an aunt of the main character, played by Kal Penn. She then served as vice president of the PEN American Center, a literary organization devoted to fostering international relationships between writers, Lahiri published her second collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth (2008), which became one of the few publications of its type to top the New York Times best-seller list. Lahiri worked as a consultant for the third season of the HBO series "In Treatment" (2008-2010), which featured a Bengali character dealing with culture shock and grief. She was then appointed to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 2010 before issuing her second novel, The Lowland, which was nominated for both the Man Booker Prize and National Book Award for Fiction in 2013.