Jhumpa Lahiri, an award-winning Indian-American author, was appointed the new director of Princeton University’s Program in Creative Writing.
Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has been a Professor of Creative Writing in Princeton since 2015. She now succeeds 2017-19 U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, who has led the program since 2015 and on July 1 became Chair of the Lewis Center, the University announced Aug. 27.
“Jhumpa Lahiri, one of the great writers of our time, is a truly galvanizing and empowering presence in the classroom,” Smith is quoted saying in the press release. “Our community is enriched by her commitments to the development of student writers, the practice of translation, and the wealth of literature being written in languages other than English. Jhumpa has also engaged in conversations around the intersection of literature and other art forms and disciplines. Under her directorship, the Creative Writing Program will enter an urgent and meaningful new phase,” Smith added.
Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, her debut story collection. She is also the author of The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland, a finalist for both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award in fiction.
She was awarded a 2014 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama, and is a recipient of numerous other awards and fellowships, including the PEN/Hemingway Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, and the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Lahiri also received the Vallombrosa Von Rezzori Prize, the Asian American Literary Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.
Lahiri’s fifth book was a collection of essays she wrote in Italian while living in Rome, titled In Altre Parole (In Other Words). Lahiri continues to write and publish in Italian (The Clothing of Books, 2016, was originally published in Italian) and translate both her own work and the work of others from Italian to English.
Born in London and raised in the U.S., Lahiri has a B.A. in English literature from Barnard College at Columbia University, and multiple degrees from Boston University including an M.A. in English, M.F.A. in Creative Writing, M.A. in Comparative Literature, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She has taught creative writing at Boston University, Baruch College, Barnard College, The New School, and the Rhode Island School of Design.
“At a time when words are used to falsify and divide, I am proud and inspired to direct a diverse and inclusive creative writing program that unites Princeton students with some of the world’s finest writers,” said Lahiri. “Never before has our faculty represented such a multitude of cultures, languages, and perspectives. This year not only marks the 80th anniversary of the program, but our continued determination to redefine the literary landscape,” she added.
The Program in Creative Writing at Princeton is in its 80th year, and the faculty has included world-renowned writers Nobel laureates Toni Morrison and Mario Vargas Llosa, as well as Indian authors such as Neel Mukherjee and Lahiri. Some 300 undergraduates take courses in this program, according to Princeton.
Through the Program, students can earn a certificate in creative writing in addition to their degree in a major, and each year, these 20 to 30 seniors work individually with a member of the faculty on a creative writing thesis, such as a novel, screenplay, or a collection of short stories, poems, or translations.
“One learns to write not only by reading and writing,” said Lahiri, “but by being in contact with other writers. Literary expression has always been a battle cry; now more than ever we must arm our students with a voice and with imagination.”