Jhumpa Lahiri, the London-born author who grew up in Kingston, Rhode Island has been given the National Humanities Medal. President Barack Obama presented the award Thursday in a ceremony at the White House, honoring Lahiri and 20 other individuals and organizations with national arts and humanities awards.
Lahiri is the author of several novels including The Namesake, and her debut story collection, The Interpreter of Maladies, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
As the daughter of Indian-born parents, Lahiri told NPR's Steve Inskeep in 2008 that the family struggled to fit in after settling in Rhode Island.
"The accent, the fact that my mother wore traditional clothing — that marked them immediately as soon as we went out in the public sphere," Lahiri said.
Lahiri's father worked at the University of Rhode Island library. In a 2009 interview published in URI's alumni magazine, Quadrangles, Lahiri spoke of a deep connection to the ocean, which she traces to her childhood in Rhode Island.
Of her father's work in the library she commented, "On a very basic level it was nice to know that there were other people from other countries there. … It just seemed like, OK, well, here is this pocket of Rhode Island that has welcomed our parents and valued them, valued the contributions that they’re making. That was very important to me."