Yesterday I was fortunate enough to see Jhumpa Lahiri read from her latest book of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, and answer some questions. I learned that the same simplicity and emotional restraint in her storytelling was reflected in her personality. And I was truly inspired by her approach to life and writing.
A lot of questions came up about the ‘responsibility’ she has as a writer. When asked if she would consider writing children’s books, she claimed that, as of right now, the responsibility would be too great because children’s texts are too sacred to her. When asked if she felt a similar responsibility to high school aged students who are, in some cases, required to read her texts, she said she simply doesn’t write with that in mind. It was similar to her response when asked if she felt a responsibility to the South Asian community to be a literary ‘spokesperson’ of sorts. This was not something she felt she could personally take on.
I was glad to hear it. Because I feel that writers shouldn’t have responsibilities to entire ethnic communities! They shouldn’t be expected to mold a child’s youth! They shouldn’t be responsible for a teenagers entire high school literary education! Writers have plenty of responsibilities. To family. And friends. To characters. To words. To the stories they choose to tell. That’s responsibility enough.