The Namesake

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Article in Themes and Big Read categories.

The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, is designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture. The Big Read brings together partners from across the country to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. JMRL invites all book lovers in Central Virginia to join The Big Read throughout March 2015. Read and discuss The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and participate in programs about the book, its themes, and its author.

We've selected a list of books, movies, and music in the JMRL collection that will inspire further exploration and enhance your reading. There is a printable version of the adult list.

About the Author

Works by Jhumpa Lahiri

Published Collections of Stories:


Short works available online:

Related Reading - Fiction

Nikolai Gogol

Indian writers on family, home, and homeland

  • Brick Lane, by Monica Ali - a Bangladeshi woman adapts to life in London and her marriage to an older man
  • Family Life, by Akhil Sharma - a family moves from India to the United States; tragedy changes their lives
  • Inheritance, by Indira Ganesan - coming-of-age story on a small coast off the coast of India, and a daughter’s coming to terms with her mother
  • Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - a girl is given up to an orphanage in Mumbai and adopted by an Indian-American couple - the story explores family and identity from the perspective of both families - Indian and American.
  • Don't Let Him Know, by Sandip Roy - this novel-in-stories portrays multiple generations of an Indian immigrant family
  • Sari of the Gods, by G. S. Sharat Chandra - stories about Indians and the Indian diaspora, separated into sections “here”, “there”, and “neither here nor there”, highlighting experience on both sides of home and abroad.
  • The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai - this novel moves between two worlds as its characters do, following the stories of an illegal Bengali immigrant in the US and an Anglicized Indian girl living in India

More Indian Fiction

  • The Last Taxi Ride, by A.X. Ahmad - a thriller featuring Ranjit Singh - who first appeared in the author's The Caretaker and is now a taxi driver in New York City - and the city's immigrant underworld.
  • Bollywood Affair, by Sonali Dev - Capture the feel of a Bollywood film with this tradition-vs-modernity rom-com about an Indian woman studying in America, an Indian film director, and the family secrets in each of their pasts.
  • Oleander Girl and other titles, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, whose novels explore many facets of live in Calcutta
  • The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, by M. G. Vassanji - an Indian family living in Kenya, a clash between cultures
  • The Lives of Others, by Neel Mukherjee - three generations of a family live together in Calcutta in this exploration of turmoil, both personal and political, of 1960s Bengal. Shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker.
  • The Toss of a Lemon, by Padma Viswanathan - a widow defies custom by caring for her children amid the tensions of family turmoil and social change
  • Find more Indian and Indian-American fiction at JMRL from our Desi Fiction list.

Assimilation, Home, and Cultural Exchange

  • How to Read the Air, by Dinaw Mengestu - a young man leaves New York and retraces the path his Ethiopan parents took on their honeymoon, working towards reconciliation and coming to terms with his cultural and family ties
  • Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts - an Australian man moves to India and becomes involved in the expat community there, this story is full of adventure but has a strong sense of place and great descriptions of everyday life in Mumbai
  • Digging to America, by Anne Tyler - this novel explores what it means to be American, and what it means to be an outsider
  • The Shoemaker's Wife, by Adriana Trigiani - Enza and Ciro are two Italians forging lives as new Americans, together and apart as fate tosses them along in this epic story of love and family
  • The Buddha in the Attic, By Julie Otsuka - young Japanese women arrive in San Francisco to be married to men they only know from a photograph; this spare book highlights their challenges in learning to live in a new country with unknown men
  • How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez - four sisters are growing up in the Bronx after fleeing the Dominican Republic with their parents in 1960; Mami & Papi are stuck in their old world while the girls forge ahead in the new

Related Reading - Nonfiction

  • Culinary inspiration

Movies and Music

Indian Music on CD

Film Adaptation of the Book

Feature Films

Documentaries about India

Books for Teens

Immigrants and Children of Immigrants in America

  • Same Sun Here, by Silas House and Neela Vaswani - a 12-year-old immigrant in NYC and a coal miner's son in Kentucky exchange letters and discuss important issues
  • Born Confused, by Tanuja Desai Hidier - 17-year-old ABCD Dimple is caught between her Indian identity with family and her American identity with friends. Bombay Blues is its sequel, in which Dimple travels to India and explores new challenges
  • What I Meant, by Marie Lamba - 15-year-old Sangeet deals with the challenges of a traditional family at home - including a strict aunt - and all the usual drama at school
  • Shine, Coconut Moon, by Neesha Meminger - Samar is totally American, but dealing with prejudice in the aftermath of September 11 has her questioning and reconnecting with her Punjabi and Sikh roots
  • Blue Jasmine, by Kashmira Sheth - 12-year-old Seema moves from India to Iowa with her family and must deal with a new country and leaving that is familiar behind


  • Carpe Diem, by Autumn Cornwell - a girl's journey through Southeast Asia help her define the path she wishes to travel
  • Monsoon Summer, by Mitali Perkins - 15-year-old Jazz is half-Indian, half-white, and would rather spend the summer at home in California, but she is dragged by her mother to India to help with an orphanage, where she learns new confidence and something about her place in the world

Historical Fiction

  • A Moment Comes, by Jennifer Bradbury - a love triangle occurs among young people during India's Partition - a Muslim boy is caught between a Sikh girl and British girl
  • Tiger Moon, by Antonia Michaelis - Set in early 1900s India, this story weaves together aspects of traditional Hindu stories and Indian history in telling the tale an ill-fated woman and the fantastic stories she weaves
  • Karma, by Cathy Ostlere - on the eve of Indira Gandhi's assassination, 15-year-old Maya travels from Canada to New Delhi with her father to perform funeral rights for her mother; she falls into the chaos of the historical events that ensue
  • Secret Keeper, by Mitali Perkins - 17-year-old Ashi is growing up in the 1970s in Calcutta, navigating traditional family life and waiting for word from her father, who has left for New York City
  • Midnight Palace, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - a secret society of orphans and twins separated at birth spice up this tale of revenge and survival in 1930s Calcutta
  • Keeping Corner, by Kashmira Sheth - Leela becomes a widow at age thirteen from a husband she never knew; this book explores traditional customs in India before independence and how they change, as Leela becomes engaged in Gandhi's social movements
  • Climbing the Stairs, by Padma Venkatraman - 15-year-old Vidya goes from a fairly progressive family situation to a more restrictive, traditional one in 1940s India
  • Children of the Wolf, by Jane Yolen - in 1920s India, two children are discovered to have been orphaned and raised by wolves; they are brought back into society and their guardians attempt to teach them human behavior


  • Tiger’s Curse series, by Colleen Houck - Kelsey must travel to India with a tiger (who is really a prince) to break an ancient curse
  • Shiva’s Fire, by Suzanne Fisher Staples - the story of Parvati, whose dancing talents invoke ancient mysticism, art and romance
  • Toads & Diamonds, by Heather Tomlinson - the re-telling of a fairy tale featuring two stepsisters, magic, and destiny in a mythical ancient India

Lives Across the World

  • Sold, by Patricia McCormick - 13-year-old Lakshmi embarks from her poor mountain home in Nepal to work in the city as a maid, only to find that she has been sold into the sex slave trade in India.
  • Beneath My Mother’s Feet, by Amjed Qamar - 14-year-old Nazia rebels against the confines and hardships of a traditional woman's role expected by her family in Pakistan
  • Rickshaw Girl, by Mitali Perkins - 10-year-old Naima must disguise herself as a boy in order to earn money to support her family, though her true talents lie in painting; she challenges traditional roles in a changing world
  • Boys Without Names, by Kashmira Sheth - 11-year-old Gopal leaves his rural Indian village with his family to live in bustling Mumbai, through misfortune he ends up locked in a sweatshop
  • Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, by Suzanne Fisher Staples - Shabanu is 11 years old and belongs to a nomadic tribe in contemporary Pakistan; she must decide between fulfiling her family's expectations in an arranged marriage to an older man or defying tradition. Shabanu's story continues in Haveli.
  • A Time to Dance, by Padma Venkatraman - a girl in contemporary India excels at classical Bharatanatyam dance until an accident requires amputation of her leg; this novel-in-verse explores her struggles and triumphs
  • Island’s End, by Padma Venkatraman - a girl apprentices to be a shamanic leader in her traditional tribe on an isolated island off the coast of India
  • Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan - 13-year-old Koly is at the mercy of fate when she is trapped in an arranged marriage and then early widow-hood; as she endures the limitations of her new situation, she finds maturity and courage


Books for Youth

Picture Books

  • Heart of a Tiger by Marsha Diane Arnold; pictures by Jamichael Henterly - As the Name Day celebration approaches, a young kitten tries to deserve a noble name, by following the path of the beautiful Bengal tiger.
  • The Story of Little Babaji by Helen Bannerman; illustrated by Fred Marcellino - A little boy in India loses his fine new clothes to the tigers, but while they dispute who is the grandest tiger in the jungle he takes his fine clothes back again.
  • Lights for Gita by Rachna Gilmore; illustrated by Alice Priestley - Recently immigrated from India, Gita is looking forward to celebrating her favorite holiday, Divali, a festival of lights, but things are so different in her new home that she wonders if she will ever adjust.
  • The Road to Mumbai by Ruth Jeyaveeran - Shoba and her pet monkey, Fuzzy Patel, set out overnight by flying bed to attend Fuzzy's cousin's wonderful wedding in Mumbai, India.
  • The Bird who was an Elephant by Aleph Kamal; paintings by Frané Lessac - A bird visits a colorful village in India, seeing a spice shop, a sacred cow, a snake charmer, and a palmist.
  • Same, Same, but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw - Pen pals Elliott and Kailash discover that even though they live in different countries--America and India--they both love to climb trees, own pets, and ride school buses.
  • Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami; pictures by Jamel Akib - A child describes waiting for the monsoon rains to arrive and the worry that they will not come.
  • Out of the Way! Out of the Way! by Uma Krishnaswami; pictures by Uma Krishnaswamy - A boy in India sees a baby tree growing by the side of a dusty path. His proection helps it flourish throughout his lifetime as the landscape around changes.
  • Rikki-tikki-tavi by Rudyard Kipling; adapted and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney - A courageous mongoose thwarts the evil plans of Nag and Nagaina, two big black cobras who live in the garden.
  • Tiger on a Tree by Anushka Rishankar; illustrated by Pulak Biswas - After trapping a tiger in a tree, a group of men must decide what to do with it.
  • To Market! To Market! by Anushka Ravishankar; illustrated by Emanuele Scanziani - a little girl sets off to the market with some money in her pocket—and no idea what to buy.
  • Monsoon Afternoon by Kashmira Sheth; illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi - A young boy and his grandfather find much they can do together on a rainy day during monsoon season in India.
  • My Dadima Wears a Sari by Kashmira Sheth; illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi - Two young sisters raised in America learn about the beauty and art of wearing a sari from their wise Indian grandmother. Includes instructions on wrapping a sari.
  • Lily's Garden of India by Jeremy Smith; illustrated by Rob Hefferan - Lily discovers a new path in one of her favorite places, her mother's exotic garden, and the plants there teach her about the culture, festivals, food, and drink of their homeland, India.


  • One Grain of Rice: a Mathematical Folktale, by Demi - A reward of one grain of rice doubles day by day into millions of grains of rice when a selfish raja is outwitted by a clever village girl.
  • The Blue Jackal, retold and illustrated by Mehlli Gobhai - A fable from India, part of the collection of tales called the Panchatantra, about a timid jackal who was afraid of all the other animals until he jumped into a vat of indigo blue dye.
  • Indian Tales, by Shenaaz Nanji; illustrated by Christopher Corr - Barefoot Tales presents an anthology of traditional tales from different regions of India.
  • The Magic Pumpkin, by Gloria Skurzynski, illustrated by Rocco Negri - The little old woman rides through the jungle in her magic pumpkin confident that she can outwit the tiger and gray wolf waiting to eat her for dinner.
  • No Dinner! The Story of the Old woman and the Pumpkin, by Jessica Souhami - A retelling of an Indic folktale in which a skinny old woman outwits the wolf, bear, and tiger who want to eat her.
  • The Rumor: a Jataka tale from India retold & illustrated by Jan Thornhill
  • Fox Tales by M.J. Wheeler; pictures by Dana Gustafson - A retelling of three Indian fables each featuring the exploits of a fox. Included are "Whose Horse Is It?," "The Bone Garden," and "The Stupid Fox."
  • Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young - Retells in verse the Indian fable of the blind men discovering different parts of an elephant and arguing about its appearance. The illustrations depict the blind arguers as mice.
  • Ganesha's Sweet Tooth, by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes; illustrated by Sanjay Patel - An original story based on Hindu mythology, this book tells the story about how Ganesha's love of sweets led to a broken tusk and the writing of the epic poem, the Mahābhārata.
  • Nine Animals and the Well, by James Rumford - A fable about a group of animals which strives to bring the perfect present to the Indian raja-king's birthday party. Discusses how the numerals we use originated in India.


  • Finders Keepers? a true story by Robert Arnett; illustrated by Smita Turakhia - The charming true story set in India is about a boy who found the author's wallet and could not understand why he should be rewarded for returning to the author what was his. The concept of accepting a reward for doing the right thing made no sense to him!
  • Arjun and His Village in India written and illustrated by Carol Barker - describes the day-to-day life, family, home, and friends of a young Indian boy living in a village in Rajasthan, a northwestern state of India.
  • Count Your Way Through India by Jim Haskins; illustrations by Liz Brenner Dodson - an introduction to the land and people of India accompanied by instructions on how to read and pronounce the numbers one through ten in Hindi
  • Taj Mahal by Caroline Arnold and Madeleine Comora; illustrated by Rahul Bhushan - recounts the love story behind the building of the Taj Mahal in India, discussing how it was constructed and providing information on Indian culture.
  • I am Indian American by Jane Stuart - briefly discusses an East Indian's heritage, including clothes, food, holidays, and religion.

Chapter Books

  • The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni - As twelve-year-old Anand continues his studies to become a full-fledged member of The Brotherhood of the Conch, he journeys back to Moghul times, where he encounters powerful sorcerers, spoiled princes, noble warriors, and evil jinns. This is the first book in the Brotherhood of the Conch series; look for the sequel, The Conch Bearer.
  • Neela, Victory Song by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni - in 1939, twelve-year-old Neela meets a young freedom fighter at her sister's wedding and soon after must rely on his help when her father fails to return home from a march in Calcutta against British occupation. Part of Girls of Many Lands series by American Girl.
  • No Ordinary Day by Deborah Ellis - Valli is an orphan who lives on the streets of Kolkata, India.
  • Robi Dobi: the Marvelous Adventures of an Indian Elephant by Madhur Jaffrey; illustrated by Amanda Hall - An Indian elephant befriends a mouse, a butterfly, and a parrot, and together they have many adventures.
  • Chained by Lynne Kelly - To work off a family debt, ten-year-old Hastin leaves his desert village in India to work as a circus elephant keeper but many challenges await him, including trying to keep Nandita, a sweet elephant, safe from the cruel circus owner.
  • Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling - presents the three adventures of Mowgli, a young boy raised by the animals in an Indian jungle, as well as other animal stories and songs.
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling - Kim, an Irish orphan, journeys throughout India and accompanies a holy man on his quest for a mystic river.
  • The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami; illustrated by Abigail Halpin - When eleven-year-old Dini and her family move to India, Dini is excited at the possibility of meeting her favorite actress, Dolly Singh. But with that meeting comes chaos and humor that she can’t wait to share with her best friend she left in America. Also check out the sequel: The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic.
  • Jahanara, Princess of Princesses by Kathryn Lasky - Beginning in 1627, Princess Jahanara, first daughter of Shah Jahan of India's Mogul Dynasty, writes in her diary about political intrigues, weddings, battles, and other experiences of her life. Includes historical notes on Jahanara's later life and on the Mogul Empire. Part of the *Royal Diaries series.
  • Gay-Neck: the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji; illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff - the story of the training of a carrier pigeon and its service during the First World War, revealing the bird's courageous and spirited adventures over the housetops of an Indian village, in the Himalayan Mountains, and on the French battlefield. 1928 Newbery Winner.
  • Blue Jasmine by Kashmira Sheth - When twelve-year-old Seema moves to Iowa City with her parents and younger sister, she leaves friends and family behind in her native India but gradually begins to feel at home in her new country.
  • Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth - Eleven-year-old Gopal and his family leave their rural Indian village for life with his uncle in Mumbai, but when they arrive his father goes missing and Gopal ends up locked in a sweatshop from which there is no escape.
  • The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule by Kashmira Sheth - Third-grader Ishan Mehra wants his family to get a dog, but his efforts to convince his parents often get him into trouble.
  • Homeless Bird by Grace Whelan - When thirteen-year-old Koly enters into an ill-fated arranged marriage, she must either suffer a destiny dictated by India's tradition or find the courage to oppose it.
  • Max in India by Adam Whitmore; illustrated by Janice Poltrick Donato - Max the cat's search for his missing tail takes him to India, where he befriends a tiger and has several dangerous adventures.