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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
BornChitralekha Banerjee
(1956-07-29) 29 July 1956 (age 63)[1]
Kolkata, India
OccupationNovelist, professor, poet, essayist, short story writer, author, fiction writer, nonfiction writer, children's fiction writer, young adult fiction writer, book reviewer, columnist
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

Her short story collection, Arranged Marriage won an American Book Award in 1995, 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.[3] That same year, she went to the United States to attend Wright State University where she received a master's degree.[4] She received a PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985 (Christopher Marlowe was the subject of her doctoral dissertation).[5]

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).[6]


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.

Divakaruni is a co-founder and former president of Maitri, a helpline founded in 1991 for South Asian women dealing with domestic abuse.[7] 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.[8]


Fiction and poetryEdit

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. Her two latest volumes of poetry are Black Candle and Leaving Yuba City. She won several awards for her poems, such as a Gerbode Award, a Barbara Deming Memorial Award and an Allen Ginsberg Award.

Divakaruni's first collection of stories Arranged Marriage, which won an American Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Award, and a Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, greatly increased her visibility. 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 the greater part 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. 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[9] is a re-telling of the Indian epic The Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective.[10] Her book 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, theater and operaEdit

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 in Tamil and aired in India, as Anbulla Snegithiye (Loving Friend).

Her story Clothes from the collection Arranged Marriage was adapted into a play and performed by the Sacramento Theater Company in 2010 and won an award. It is being performed in May 2006 by Ryerson University in Toronto.

In 2013 Divakaruni wrote a chamber opera for the Houston Grand Opera titled River of Light about the life of an Indian woman in Houston. It was performed by Houston Grand Opera (HGOCo) in 2014 and received excellent reviews. It was performed by Festival Opera in the San Francisco Bay area in 2015.

Her novel One Amazing Thing has currently been optioned by the Hollywood production company Gillen Group.



Young adult and children'sEdit

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

Brotherhood of the Conch seriesEdit


  • The Reason for Nasturtiums (1990)
  • Black Candle (1991)
  • Leaving Yuba City (1997)
  • Indian Movie, New Jersey
  • Tiger Mask Ritual


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


  • 1995: The American Book Award for Arranged Marriage: Stories
  • 1995: PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award for Arranged Marriage: Stories
  • 1995: Bay Area Book Reviewers Award for Fiction for Arranged Marriage: Stories
  • 1997: The Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize and the Pushcart Prize for poems in Leaving Yuba City: New and Selected Poems
  • 1997: Mistress of Spices longlisted for The Orange Prize
  • 1997: Los Angeles Times Best Books of 1997 for Mistress of Spices
  • 1998: Seattle Times Best Paperbacks of 1998 for Mistress of Spices
  • 1999: "Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter" included in Best American Short Stories
  • 2003: "The Lives of Strangers" included in O'Henry Prize Stories
  • 2003: Pushcart Prize for "The Lives of Strangers"
  • 2007: Distinguished Writer Award from the South Asian Literary Association
  • 2008: University of California at International House Berkeley Alumna of the Year Award
  • 2009: Cultural Jewel Award from the Indian Culture Center, Houston
  • 2011: Light of India Jury's Award for Journalism and Literature
  • 2015: Premio Scanno Award for Literature, Italy.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • 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

External linksEdit


  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. ^ "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Biography". Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  5. ^ Chitralekha Divakaruni (December 1984). "For danger is in words : changing attitudes to language in the plays of Christopher Marlowe". OskiCat - UC Berkeley Library Catalog. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  6. ^ See author's Bio on her webpage
  7. ^ Seshachari, Neila C. (Winter 2001). "Writing As Spiritual Experience: A Conversation with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni". Weber Journal Archive. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 February 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Bhattacharyya, Madhumita (13 March 2005). "Dreams and dislocation". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India.