My defense of Lahiri has generally followed a two-fold pattern: first, craft matters, and Lahiri pays attention to her sentences. That’s why I value Lahiri and have generally dismissed sentimental Indian diaspora writers like Meena Alexander or Chitra Divakaruni. Secondly, Lahiri has been one of a very small number of writers to explore the mainstream second-generation immigrant experience with a degree of seriousness and care. For that reason, I respect the fact that Lahiri does not try to play her Indian cultural heritage for “multicultural” exoticism, but rather considers it as merely one among many pieces of the contemporary American puzzle.
When I read these sorts of reflections, I worry that Lahiri has perhaps run out of ideas or inspiration. Aren’t there other kinds of narratives to work through than the one she has by now dealt with several times (in both essays and stories): of growing up as an Indian American in New England, going to college and graduate school, and finally, deciding, perhaps against her family’s wishes, to become a writer? Doesn’t Lahiri have an interest in representing or engaging voices other than her own?
I will probably continue to be a fan of Lahiri’s, but I must admit my patience is wearing thin.