From growing up and going to school in India to becoming a published American author and journalist, Thrity Umrigar has led a life that gives her broad perspective on what it’s like for an immigrant to integrate themselves into their new country’s culture and populace.
The author came to America when she was 21 after attending Bombay University and earned a Master of Arts degree from Ohio State University, then a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University.
She works now as a professor of creative writing at Case Western Reserve University and has written for numerous Ohio and national newspapers, including The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.
Her published novels include “Bombay Time,” “The Space Between Us,” and “The World We Found.”
Umrigar spoke of her experiences Oct. 27 at the Friends of the Amherst Public Library’s 12th Annual Authors Luncheon at Heritage Presbyterian Church in Amherst, detailing a pattern in distribution of power and influence that makes life difficult for immigrants, those in poverty, and other groups of people discriminated against based on race, sex, or ethnic background.
“It was a very long and circuitous route I took to becoming a writer,” she said. “I write about power relationships between people. That can mean rich and poor. It can mean men and women. Who has power? Who doesn’t? How is used against those who don’t?”
During her time as a reporter, she spent a week living with a family on welfare to get a first-hand look at what it’s like to live on the brink of financial disaster.
“Power is just not distributed in a fair and equal way,” she said. “We should hold government accountable but the people who really wield the power are big corporations. It’s fashionable to hate the government but we need to take a look at what’s really driving this inequity that we have in society.”
When asked what is the best step in holding those entities accountable, Umrigar strongly urged the audience to vote.
“If we all voted and shined the light at the real enemies, we could solve many problems next week,” she said. “For me, the greatest gift of literature is its ability to let us exchange lives. We read about someone else’s experience, and we’re able to temporarily jump into the life and heart of that person.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Amherst News-Times Thrity Umrigar, a published author and creative writing professor at Case Western Western Reserve University, spoke at the 12th Annual Authors Luncheon at Heritage Presbyterian Church in Amherst.