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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
BornChitralekha Banerjee
1956 (age 67–68)[1]
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
EducationUniversity of Calcutta (BA)
Wright State University
University of California, Berkeley (PhD)
GenrePoetry, short stories, novels; fantasy, young adult, magical realism, historical fiction
Notable worksArranged Marriage: Stories
Mistress of Spices
Sister of My Heart
The Palace of Illusions
One Amazing Thing
The Conch Bearer
The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming
Notable awardsAmerican Book Award
PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (born Chitralekha Banerjee, 1956[2]) is an Indian-born 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. 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.

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.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

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


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 in California at Foothill College and Diablo Valley College. She now lives and teaches in Texas, where she is the McDavid Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.[5]

Divakaruni is the co-founder and former president of Maitri, a helpline founded in 1991 in San Francisco for South Asian women dealing with domestic abuse.[6] Divakaruni is on its advisory board and on the advisory board of Daya, a similar service in Houston. She has served on the board of Pratham Houston, an organisation working to bring literacy to disadvantaged Indian children[when?], and is on their emeritus board.[7]


Fiction and poetry[edit]

Divakaruni began her writing career as a poet.[8] Her volumes of poetry include Black Candle and Leaving Yuba City.[9]

Her first collection of stories Arranged Marriage won an American Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Award, and a Bay Area Book Reviewers Award.[10] 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. She has also written a young adult fantasy series called The Brotherhood of the Conch which is located 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.[citation needed] 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[11] is a re-telling of the Indian epic The Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective.[12]

Divakaruni's work has been published in The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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.[13]

Divakaruni's story Clothes from the collection Arranged Marriage was adapted into play under the title Arranged Marriage by Peggy Shannon in 2004, 2010, and 2016.[14][15]

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[16] with original compositions by Jack Perla[17] and was shown again in 2015 by the opera company Festival Opera, directed by Tanya Kane-Parry at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.[18]

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 being prepared in India based on The Palace of Illusions. The premiere was scheduled for 2021.[19]

As of 2021, her novel One Amazing Thing has been optioned to become a Bollywood film.[10]

Honors and awards[edit]



Young adult and children's[edit]

  • Neela: Victory Song (2002)
  • Grandma and the Great Gourd (2013) (children's picture book)[32]

Brotherhood of the Conch series[edit]


  • "Dark like the River", 1987.
  • 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[34]


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

Personal life[edit]

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).[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 25 December 2022.
  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.
  3. ^ Bredemus, James Thomas (4 April 1999). "Voices from the Gaps: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni" (PDF). conservancy.umn.edu. hdl:11299/166154. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Department of English Creative Writing Program Professor Honored Among Houston's Finest Authors". University of Houston – College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences – uh.edu. 1 October 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  6. ^ Seshachari, Neila C. (Winter 2001). "Writing As Spiritual Experience: A Conversation with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Weber Journal Archive. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Banerjee, Kaushani (11 April 2017). "I see my writing as an extension of my activism: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  9. ^ "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d OK, Anand Raj (9 June 2021). "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: 'I never thought I'd be a writer'". Gulf News. Retrieved 10 December 2022.
  11. ^ "Book Review: Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni @ INDIA reads Online Library cum Bookstore | INDIAreads". Archived from the original on 15 February 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  12. ^ Bhattacharyya, Madhumita (13 March 2005). "Dreams and dislocation". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013.
  13. ^ "Entertainment News: Film adaptation of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novel on Drapaudi in the works". scroll.in. 26 September 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  14. ^ Dhanji, Aabida (22 May 2016). "Canadian Premiere of Award-Winning Bollywood Play – Arranged Marriage". fusia.ca. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  15. ^ Sloan, Will (12 May 2016). "Podcast: Peggy Shannon on 'Arranged Marriage'". Ryerson Today – ryerson.ca. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  16. ^ Kulkarni, Pramod (12 December 2013). "Houston Grand Opera's "River of Light" to Feature Libretto by Chitra Divakaruni". indoamerican-news.com. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  17. ^ "Writers, Opera, and Chitra Divakaruni's River of Light". anopenbookblog.org. 21 March 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  18. ^ Wishnia, Rebecca (16 November 2015). "River of Light Shines at Festival Opera". San Francisco Classical Voice – sfcv.org. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  19. ^ Aishwarya (14 November 2019). "Deepika Padukone Starrer Mahabharat Based On The Novel 'The Palace Of Illusions'". filmibeat.com. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  20. ^ "Previous Winners of the American Book Award" (PDF). beforecolumbusfoundation.com. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  21. ^ a b c Patel, Nilu N. (May 2017). "Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee". Postcolonial Studies @ Emory. scholarblogs.emory.edu. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  22. ^ Reviews of Arranged Marriage: Stories
  23. ^ Reviews of The Unknown Errors of our Lives
  24. ^ Reviews of The Vine of Desire
  25. ^ Reviews of Queen of Dreams
  26. ^ Purdon, James (27 September 2009). "The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  27. ^ Reviews of Oleander Girl
  28. ^ Saraswat, Surbhi. "Myth & Gender: A Critical Reading of Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni’s Before We Visit the Goddess." International Journal of English Language, Literature in Humanities 6.2 (2018): 748-754.
  29. ^ Reviews of Before We Visit the Goddess
  30. ^ Review of The Forest of Enchantments
  31. ^ Reviews of Independence
  32. ^ Reviews of Grandma and the Great Gourd
  33. ^ Review of Shadowland
  34. ^ Review of Leaving Yuba City
  35. ^ Author's Bio on her webpage

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.
  • 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. Of Foreigners and Fetishes | Samar Magazine
  • 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]