Immigrant Family Eases Into Thanksgiving Dinner

Immigrants to this country share their holiday memories. Author Jumpha Lahiri was born in England; her parents are from India. Together they moved to Rhode Island when she was two. At first, she tells Steve Inskeep, her family didn't celebrate Thanksgiving.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This Thanksgiving Day we're hearing memories of immigrants to this country. All this week, they've told us about their experiences as newcomers, and today we will hear about their early Thanksgivings. Jhumpa Lahiri was born in England. Her parents are from India. Together they moved to Rhode Island when she was two years old. At first she says her family did not celebrate Thanksgiving.

Ms. JHUMPA LAHIRI (Author): But then what happened was as my sister and I got older and sort of a little more savvy in the kitchen and all of that, we started to do it. We were able to adopt the tradition.

INSKEEP: Did you change it?

Ms. LAHIRI: No. My mother would - if we have it all together, she'll usually offer one or two nontraditional items. And, you know, sometimes we'll...

INSKEEP: Tandoori turkey or something like that?

Ms. LAHIRI: Not yet, but maybe it's coming. We didn't always make a turkey. Though, you know, my sister - I think she's much more of a purist then I am. One time my husband - he grew up in Guatemala - so one Thanksgiving we had it here in New York and he made a turkey mole. And my parents came. They had never had a turkey mole before. My in-laws came...

INSKEEP: I think you'll have to explain what a turkey mole is.

Ms. LAHIRI: It's a Mexican dish. So it's like a, you know, Mexican curry type of thing. And so he made this. And my sister went home to Rhode Island after this dinner, and she made a full American, you know, traditional Thanksgiving roast turkey.

INSKEEP: Because the other one was just not acceptable?

Ms. LAHIRI: Yes, because she felt deprived of the experience of the true Thanksgiving. So there you go.

INSKEEP: Author Jhumpa Lahiri. Her latest book is "Unaccustomed Earth."

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