Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Unaccustomed Earth

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Unaccustomed Earth

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2008, 352 pages
    Apr 2009, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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About this Book

Beyond the Book

The Origins of Sindoor

With supreme and economical skill, Jhumpa Lahiri uses only a few cultural signifiers to situate her characters in space and time. Almost all of the mothers in her stories, the women from the older generation who emigrate from India to the United States with their husbands, wear vermilion powder in their hair. Called sindoor, this powder is applied to the part of a Hindu bride's hair by her husband during their wedding ceremony, and is thereafter worn to signify her married status. Widows typically do not wear sindoor.

In this way, the meaning of sindoor is much simpler than that of the bindi, the bright red dot that many Indian women wear on their foreheads. The bindi can be worn by women regardless of age and marital status, and thus functions more like a decoration, albeit one with spiritual meaning as the bindi is placed over the sixth chakra,...

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