2011 Featured Presenters

Keynote speaker

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, her debut story collection that explores issues of love and identity among immigrants and cultural transplants. With a compelling, universal fluency, Lahiri portrays the practical and emotional adversities of her diverse characters in elegant and direct prose. Whether describing hardships of a lonely Indian wife adapting to life in the United States or illuminating the secret pain of a young couple as they discuss their betrayals during a series of electrical blackouts, Lahiri's bittersweet stories avoid sentimentality without abandoning compassion.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesake was published in the fall of 2003 to great acclaim.The Namesake expands on the perplexities of the immigrant experience and the search for identity. The narrative follows the Gangulis, an Indian couple united in an arranged marriage, as they build their lives together in America. Unlike her husband, Mrs. Ganguli defies assimilation, while their son, Gogol, burdened with the seemingly absurd name of the long-dead Russian writer, awkwardly struggles to define himself. A film version of The Namesake (directed by Mira Nair) was released in 2007. Lahiri’s most recent book of short stories, entitled Unaccustomed Earth, received the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award (the world’s largest prize for a short story collection). She has contributed the essay on Rhode Island in the 2008 book State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America.

Born in London, Lahiri moved to Rhode Island as a young child with her Bengali parents. Although they have lived in the United States for more than thirty years, Lahiri observes that her parents retain "a sense of emotional exile" and Lahiri herself grew up with "conflicting expectations…to be Indian by Indians and American by Americans." Lahiri's abilities to convey the oldest cultural conflicts in the most immediate fashion and to achieve the voices of many different characters are among the unique qualities that have captured the attention of a wide audience.

Alongside the Pulitzer Prize, Jhumpa Lahiri also won the PEN/Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize (for the short story “Interpreter of Maladies”), and the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among others. Lahiri was also granted a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 2006. In 2009 she was awarded the Vallombrosa Von Rezzori Prize and the Asian American Literary Award for Fiction (for Unaccustomed Earth).

Photo Credits:

  • Jhumpa Lahiri photo by Elena Seibert
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie photo by Ivara Esege
  • Sandra Alcosser photo by Philip Maechling
  • Rae Armantrout photo by Kevin Walsh
  • Adrian Blevins photo by Connie Stevens
  • Rosanne Cash photo by Deborah Feingo
  • Sandra Cisneros photo by Ray Santisteban
  • Stephen Dunn photo by Andrea Dunn
  • Martín Espada photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
  • Joshua Ferris photo by Nina Subin
  • Thalia Field photo by Richard Cummings
  • Carolyn Forché photo by Emma Dodge Hanson
  • Mary Gaitskill photo by Hillary Harvey
  • Forrest Gander photo by Yuh-Hwa Ning
  • John Wesley Harding photo by Bill Wadman
  • Amy Hempel photo by Kenneth Chen
  • Kristin Hersh photo by Dina Douglas
  • Marie Howe photo by Brad Fowler
  • Edward P. Jones photo by Jerry Bauer
  • Carole Maso photo by Dixie Sheridan
  • Rick Moody photo by Thatcher Keats
  • Aimee Nezhukumatathil photo by Marion Ettlinger
  • Mark Nowak photo by Lisa Arrastía
  • Joyce Carol Oates photo by Marion Ettlinger
  • Gregory Orr photo by Matt Valentine
  • Benjamin Percy photo by Jennifer May
  • Jayne Anne Phillips photo by Elena Seibert
  • Josh Ritter photo by Marcelo Biglia
  • Pattiann Rogers photo by John R. Rogers
  • Kay Ryan photo by Christina Koci Hernandez
  • Sapphire photo by Lina Pallotta
  • Gary Shteyngart photo by Lacombe
  • Raymond S. Smith and Joyce Carol Oates photo by Eva Haggdahl
  • Elizabeth Strout photo by M. Berkley
  • Natasha Trethewey photo by Matt Valentine
  • Helena Maria Viramontes photo by Nico Tucci
  • Colson Whitehead photo by Erin Patrice O'Brien
  • Kevin Young photo by Todd Martens
  • Raúl Zurita photo by Héctor González de Cunco
  • Marilyn Hacker photo by Robert Giard
  • John Haines photo by Brian Allen


Biographical Information Sources: