Ah, New York, you muse of novelists and filmmakers... you've done it again, in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. I'm a little late to the party on this one, I admit, especially since I've taught her short story collection The Interpreter of Maladies. But I have to say that reviews bear some responsibility. I can only see the words "coming of age" so many times before I start thinking I can put off reading this oh-so-important novel. However, Namesake is worth it, and the great thing about modern coming-of-age novels is that they can portray important times of life like high school and college without being treated as un-serious. The hero, Gogol Ganguli, struggles with his name and all it represents: his family's complex history and immigration, relationship to art, adjustment to life in America. It handles the issues of a second-generation child and his interracial dating without ever becoming too symbolic or cliched, which in itself is a true feat. And, since Lahiri is nothing if not a fun descriptive writer, there's also lots of loving portrayal of NYC's urban desert and yummy Indian desserts.
I'm looking forward to renting the movie that was made by Mira Nair starring Kal Penn, late of House and soon of the White House.