Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
BornChitralekha Banerjee
(1956-07-29) 29 July 1956 (age 65)[1]
Kolkata, India
Alma materUniversity of Calcutta
Wright State University
University of California, Berkeley
GenrePoetry, short stories, novels; fantasy, young adult, magical realism, historical fiction
Notable worksMistress of Spices
ChildrenAbhay, Anand

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (born Chitralekha Banerjee, July 29, 1956[2]) is an Indian-American author, poet, and the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Writing at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.

Her short story collection, Arranged Marriage won an American Book Award in 1996,[3] and two of her novels (The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart), as well as a short story The Word Love were adapted into films. Mistress of Spices was short-listed for the Orange Prize. Currently, Sister of My Heart, Oleander Girl, Palace of Illusions, and One Amazing Thing have all been optioned to be made into movies or TV serials.

Divakaruni's works are largely set in India and the United States, and often focus on the experiences of South Asian immigrants. She writes for children as well as adults, and has published novels in multiple genres, including realistic fiction, historical fiction, magical realism, myth and fantasy.


Divakaruni was born in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. She received her B.A. from the University of Calcutta in 1976.[4] In the same year, she went to the United States to attend Wright State University, where she received a master's degree.[5] She received a PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985 (Christopher Marlowe was the subject of her doctoral dissertation).[6]

Divakaruni lives in Houston with her husband, Murthy. She has two sons, Anand and Abhay (whose names she has used in her children's novels).[7]


Divakaruni put herself through graduate school by taking on odd jobs, working as a babysitter, a store clerk, a bread slicer in a bakery, a laboratory assistant at Wright State University, and a dining hall attendant at International House, Berkeley. She was a graduate teaching assistant at U.C. Berkeley. She taught at Foothill College in Los Altos, California and Diablo Valley College. She now lives and teaches in Texas, where she is the McDavid professor of Creative Writing at the nationally ranked University of Houston Creative Writing Program.[8]

Divakaruni is the co-founder and former president of Maitri, a helpline founded in 1991 for South Asian women dealing with domestic abuse.[9] Divakaruni serves on its advisory board and on the advisory board of a similar organisation in Houston, Daya. She has served on the board of Pratham Houston, a non-profit organisation working to bring literacy to disadvantaged Indian children for many years, and is presently on their emeritus board.[10]


Fiction and poetry[edit]

Divakaruni's work has been published in over 50 magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies including the Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Prize Stories, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. Her fiction has been translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Indonesian, Bengali, Turkish and Japanese.

Divakaruni began her writing career as a poet.[11] Her two latest volumes of poetry are Black Candle and Leaving Yuba City. She has won several awards for her poems, such as a Gerbode Award, a Barbara Deming Memorial Award and an Allen Ginsberg Award.[12]

Divakaruni's first collection of stories Arranged Marriage won an American Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Award, and a Bay Area Book Reviewers Award.[citation needed]. Her major novels include The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Queen of Dreams, One Amazing Thing, Palace of Illusions, Oleander Girl and Before We Visit the Goddess. Although most of her novels are written for adults, she has also written a young adult fantasy series called The Brotherhood of the Conch which, unlike many of her adult novels, takes place wholly in India and draws on the culture and folklore of that region. The first book of the series, The Conch Bearer was nominated for the 2003 Bluebonnet Award. It was listed in the Publisher's Weekly Best Books of the Year, Booklist Editor's Choice, Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Choice Award Master List and the Rebecca Caudill Award Master List.[13] The second book of the series, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming came out in 2005 and the third and final book of the series, Shadowland, was published in 2009.

Divakaruni's novel The Palace of Illusions, was a national best-seller for over a year in India and[14] is a re-telling of the Indian epic The Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective.[15] The Palace of Illusions has also been included among a list of 12 books of Indian authors you must read now released by Indiatimes.

Film, television, theatre and opera[edit]

Divakaruni's novel The Mistress of Spices was released as a film of the same name in 2005. It was directed by Paul Mayeda Berges, with a script by Berges and his wife, Gurinder Chadha. The film starred Aishwarya Rai and Dylan McDermott.

In addition, her novel Sister of my Heart was made into a television series by Suhasini Maniratnam in Tamil and aired in India, as Anbulla Snegithiye (Loving Friend). In 2018 the producers NR Pachisia und Dipankar Jojo Chaki secured the rights to a film adaption of The Palace of Illusions.[16]

Her story Clothes from the collection Arranged Marriage was adapted into play under the title Arranged Marriage by Peggy Shannon in 2004, 2010, and 2016.[17][18] Furthermore the story was transformed into a dance theater piece and brought on stage by director Roberta Uno of New World Theater at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In 2013, Divakaruni wrote the libretto to a chamber opera for Houston Grand Opera, River of Light, about the life of an Indian woman in Houston. It premiered in 2014[19] with original compositions by Jack Perla[20] and was shown again in 2015 by the opera company Festival Opera, directed by Tanya Kane-Parry at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.[21]

The Palace of Illusions was adapted into a play named Fire and Ice: Draupadi's Story by Joe DiSabatino and performed in India under his direction. A Bollywood movie with the title Mahabharat, starring Deepika Padukone as Draupadi, is currently prepared in India based on The Palace of Illusions. The premiere is scheduled for 2021.[22]

Divakaruni's novel One Amazing Thing has been optioned by the Hollywood production company Gillen Group.[citation needed]



Young adult and children's[edit]

  • Neela: Victory Song (2002)
  • Grandma and the Great Gourd (2013) (children's picture book)

Brotherhood of the Conch series[edit]


  • mr. aryan yadav, 1987.[25]
  • The Reason for Nasturtiums, Berkeley (Berkeley Poets Workshop) 1990. ISBN 978-0-917658-28-0
  • Black Candle. Poems About Women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Corvallis (Calyx Books) 1991. ISBN 978-0-934971-74-4
  • Leaving Yuba City, St. Louis (Turtleback Books) 1997. ISBN 978-1-4177-1097-3[26]


  • Multitude: Cross Cultural Readings for Writers (1993)
  • We Too Sing America (1997)
  • California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century (2004)

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Abcarian, Richard and Marvin Klotz. "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni." In Literature: The Human Experience, 9th edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006: 1544.
  • Aldana, Frederick Luis. "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: The Unknown Errors of Our Lives." World Literature Today. University of Oklahoma. 1 January 2002.
  • Cheung, King-Kok (2000). Words matter conversations with Asian American writers. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press in association with UCLA Asian American Studies Center, Los Angeles. ISBN 9780585469423. OCLC 52974184.
  • Softsky, Elizabeth. "Cross Cultural Understanding Spiced with the Indian Diaspora." Black Issues in Higher Education 14 (15):26. 18 September 1997.
  • X.J. Kennedy et al. The Bedford Reader, 10th edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007: 446.
  • Majithia, Sheetal. "Of Foreigners and Fetishes: A Reading of Recent South Asian American Fiction." Samar 14: The South Asian American Generation (Fall/Winter 2001): 52–53.
  • Newton, Pauline T. Transcultural Women of Later Twentieth Century US American Literature. Ashgate Publishing, 2005.
  • Merlin, Lara. "The Mistress of Spices." World Literature Today. University of Oklahoma. 1 January 1998.
  • Johnson, Sarah Anne. "Writing outside the Lines." Writer 117(3):20 Mar 2004.
  • Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath. Asian American Novelists A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2000. ISBN 9780313309113
  • Zupančič, Metka (July 2012). "The power of storytelling: an interview with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Contemporary Women's Writing. 6 (2): 85–101. doi:10.1093/cww/vpr023.

External links[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Davis, Rocío G. (2003). "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (1956– )". In Huang, Guiyou (ed.). Asian American Short Story Writers: An A-to-Z Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-313-32229-7. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  3. ^ "Previous Winners of the American Book Award" (PDF). Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Biography". Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  6. ^ Chitralekha Divakaruni (December 1984). For danger is in words : changing attitudes to language in the plays of Christopher Marlowe. OskiCat - UC Berkeley Library Catalog (Thesis). Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  7. ^ See author's Bio on her webpage
  8. ^ "Department of English Creative Writing Program Professor Honored Among Houston's Finest Authors". University of Houston – College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences – 1 October 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  9. ^ Seshachari, Neila C. (Winter 2001). "Writing As Spiritual Experience: A Conversation with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Weber Journal Archive. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  10. ^ Agarwal, Dr. Gunjan and Gunjan Kapil (December 2014). "The Representation of Woman in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Doors, Affair, and Meeting Mrinal" (PDF). The Criterion. 5 (6): 77.
  11. ^ Banerjee, Kaushani (11 April 2017). "I see my writing as an extension of my activism: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award Cumulative List 1988–2019" (PDF). 23 March 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 February 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Bhattacharyya, Madhumita (13 March 2005). "Dreams and dislocation". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India.
  16. ^ "Entertainment News: Film adaptation of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novel on Drapaudi in the works". 26 September 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  17. ^ Dhanji, Aabida (22 May 2016). "Canadian Premiere of Award-Winning Bollywood Play – Arranged Marriage". Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  18. ^ Sloan, Will (12 May 2016). "Podcast: Peggy Shannon on 'Arranged Marriage'". Ryerson Today – Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  19. ^ Kulkarni, Pramod (12 December 2013). "Houston Grand Opera's "River of Light" to Feature Libretto by Chitra Divakaruni". Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  20. ^ "Writers, Opera, and Chitra Divakaruni's River of Light". 21 March 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  21. ^ Wishnia, Rebecca (16 November 2015). "River of Light Shines at Festival Opera". San Francisco Classical Voice – Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  22. ^ Aishwarya (14 November 2019). "Deepika Padukone Starrer Mahabharat Based On The Novel 'The Palace Of Illusions'". Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  23. ^ Purdon, James (27 September 2009). "The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  24. ^ Veena (3 January 2020). "It was the right time to write about Sita's strength and power". Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  25. ^ Bredemus, James Thomas (4 April 1999). "Voices from the Gaps: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni" (PDF). Retrieved 7 February 2020. Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
  26. ^ Patel, Nilu N. (1 March 1998). "Authors & Artists: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Biography". Retrieved 7 February 2020. Article last edited in May 2017