Jhumpa Lahiri's Photo

Jhumpa Lahiri
(1967 - )

"For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy - a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been an ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect."

The Namesake

Amy Tan's Photo

Amy Tan
(1952 - )

"I wanted my children to have the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character. How could I know these two things do not mix?

I taught her how American circumstances work ...She learned these things, but I couldn't teach her about Chinese character ...Why Chinese thinking is the best.

No, this kind of thinking didn't stick to her. She was too busy chewing gum, blowing bubbles bigger than her cheeks. Only that kind of thinking stuck.

‘Finish your coffee,’ I told her yesterday. ‘Don't throw your blessings away.’

‘Don't be so old-fashioned, Ma,’ she told me, finishing her coffee down the sink. ‘I'm my own person.’

And, I think, how can she be her own person? When did I give her up?"

The Joy Luck Club

Welcome to the web site of Eugenio María de Hostos Community College's Book-of-the-Semester Project. You are invited to embark once more on another inspiring reading journey. This year, as we consider a theme that deserves our closest attention - CROSSING CULTURAL BOUNDARIES - we will read two award-winning novels: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Fall Semester) and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Spring Semester). Both authors are aware of the difficulties that children with bilingual and bicultural backgrounds face as they grow up in their parents' "adopted" country, and this is the thematic backdrop for both of these works of fiction.

Interestingly enough, The Namesake and The Joy Luck Club are their respective authors' first novels. In The Namesake, which received the New York Magazine Book of the Year Award when it was published in 2003, Jhumpa Lahiri describes first-generation American Gogol Ganguli's odyssey through the first thirty years of his life as he grapples with the burden of conflicting loyalties that his two opposing cultures, Indian and American, impose upon him. In The Joy Luck Club, which was on the New York Times best-seller list for twenty months when it came out in 1989, Amy Tan charts the lives of four Chinese immigrant women and their Americanized daughters through the tension of the cross-cultural conflicts that existed between them.

Please try as much as possible throughout the year to participate in the activities that have been planned to make these two reading experiences meaningful for you. Go to "Calendar of Events" to see the schedule of activities.

For guidance in reading Lahiri's novel, go to "Study Guide for The Namesake."

For guidance in reading Tan's novel, go to "Study Guide for The Joy Luck Club."

To participate in the conversation board , go to "Discussion Board."

For background information on both Lahiri and Tan, go to "The Novelists."