Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies

988261_682712241754797_999308452_n The Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of nine short stories involving the lives of Indian American immigrants and their children. Some stories document the struggle immigrants go through as they attempt to adjust to a new society. Some characters want to hold on to their own cultural identity, or at least a peace of it. Others find it difficult to immerse themselves into the American way of life and, therefore, feel like an outsider. Sometimes, even the American-born children of immigrants feel like outsiders, unable to truly identify with either culture. In other cases, American-born children are largely disconnected from their heritage. For example, in the title-story, when Mr. and Mrs. Das visit their home country for the first time, they seem more like American tourists than Indians returning home.

Although none of the stories are action-packed, each one does take a small unexpected turn in the end. Also, the theme of love is evident in each story. For instance, in “A Temporary Matter,” Shobar and Shukumar are both aware of their faltering marriage. While both seek a new beginning, Shobar is alone in hoping for a new beginning together. However, love is not always related to romance. For example, in “When Mr. Pirzada came to dine” and “The Third and Final Continent,” love is more about friendship.

In general, although this book was a good way to pass time in the cardio room, it wasn’t a can’t-put-it-down type of book. Maybe the lack of action had something to do with it because it did seem kind of slow. But overall, I would recommend this book to immigrants and children of immigrants for I think they would definitely be able to relate to many of the experiences relayed in the book.

Joyce Carol Oates: Black Dahlia & White Rose

Joyce Carol Oate’s Black Dahlia & White Rose is a collection of 11 short stories, which starts off with Black Dahlia & White Rose. Based on a true unsolved murder mystery, Black Dahlia relays a first-person account of two young girls, Elizabeth Short and Marilyn Monroe (yes, Marilyn Monroe), aspiring to stardom. It answers questions such as how one became the unfortunate victim of brutal murder, while the other rose to fame.

Despite raving reviews, I didn’t find all of the stories in the collection interesting to read. But, in addition the cover story, I did enjoy reading I.D. and Deceit. I.D. revolves around the experience of a middle school student in New Jersey who is asked to identify the body of a woman who may possibly be her blackjack dealing mother. Similarly Deceit also centers around a parent-child relationship. It presents the case of how a mother finds out that her daughter has been physically abused.