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Sawnet - Bookshelf -
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
was born in Calcutta and spent the first
nineteen years of her life in India. She moved to the United States
continue her studies, getting a Master's degree from
Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the
University of California at Berkeley, both in English.
For several years she has been interested in issues involving women,
and has worked with Afghani women refugees and women from
dysfunctional families, as well as in shelters for battered
women. Since 1991 she has been president of MAITRI, a South Asian
women's service which she helped found in the San Francisco area.
She has written several books of poetry, and her work has been
included in over 30 anthologies. Her book of short stories,
Arranged Marriage, which has won critical acclaim and the
1996 American Book Award, the Bay Area Book Reviewers and
PEN Oakland awards for fiction. She has two published novels:
The Mistress of Spices and Sister of my Heart.
For twenty years Divakaruni lived in the Bay Area and taught at
Foothill College. In 1997 she moved to Texas with her husband and
two children, where she taught
creative writing at the University of Houston. After a 2-year stay
in California, she has returned to Houston with her family.
According to a
UH press release, the Mistress of Spices is soon to be made into a
major motion picture.
- Articles by Divakaruni online
complexions and pink cheeks. Rediff.
Objects of Desire. About the changes in
marriage ads in the last 3 decades. Atlantic Monthly, Mar 2000.
- Do South
Asian women need separate shelter homes?. Article in Rediff, July 99.
What Women Share, an essay by Divakaruni.
My work with Maitri, an essay by Divakaruni.
Arranging one's life: Interview in Metroactive
Dutta writes a letter, a short story in Atlantic Monthly.
Two poems from Leaving Yuba City
of Life -- 1998 Salon columns.
of Life -- 1997 Salon columns.
- The Visit. A poem about a daughter's visit to her ill and aging mother.
- Articles about Divakaruni
interview with Veena Merchant in NewsIndia-Times.
of Divakaruni in Time.
Emory U's postcolonial web site.
Readers Guide from the Oregonian
- Profile at the
by Robbie Clipper Sethi at Little India, April 99.
- One Amazing Thing
Voice Publishers (2010)
- Late afternoon in an Indian visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers have come and gone, but nine people remain. A punky teenager with an unexpected gift. An upper class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating. A young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11. A graduate student haunted by a question about love. An African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption. A Chinese grandmother with a secret past. And two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair.
When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine wildly individual characters together, their focus first jolts to a collective struggle to survive. There?s little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, ?one amazing thing? from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. As their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself.
- Sawnet Review by Visi Tilak
- The Palace of Illusions
- Relevant to today’s war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to the time of the Indian epic The Mahabharat—a time that is half-history, half-myth, and wholly magical. Through her narrator Panchaali, the wife of the legendary five Pandavas brothers, Divakaruni gives us a rare feminist interpretation of an epic story.
The novel traces Panchaali’s life, beginning with her magical birth in fire as the daughter of a king before following her spirited balancing act as a woman with five husbands who have been cheated out of their father’s kingdom. Panchaali is swept into their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at the brothers’ sides through years of exile and a terrible civil war. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her stratagems to take over control of her household from her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husband’s most dangerous enemy. Panchaali is a fiery female voice in a world of warriors, gods, and ever-manipulating hands of fate.
- Sawnet Review by Visi Tilak
- An ancient epic through new eyes. Review in the Houston Chronicle.
- Review in bookreporter.com
- Recast in a feminist light
- An ambitious novel recasts the Hindu epic "The Mahabharata."
. Review in the LA Times.
- The good, the bad, and the Titanic. Review by Jai Arjun Singh.
- Review in the Hindustan Times.
- ..sullenly subversive.... Review by Kalpish Ratna in Outlook.
- Queen of Dreams
- Rakhi, a young artist and divorced mother living in Berkeley, California, is struggling to keep her footing with her family and with a world in alarming transition. Her mother is a dream teller, born with the ability to share and interpret the dreams of others, to foresee and guide them through their fates. This gift of vision fascinates Rakhi but also isolates her from her mother's past in India and the dream world she inhabits, and she longs for something to bring them closer. Caught beneath the burden of her own painful secret, Rakhi's solace comes in the discovery, after her mother's death, of her dream journals, which begin to open the long-closed door to her past.
As Rakhi attempts to divine her identity, knowing little of India but drawn inexorably into a sometimes painful history she is only just discovering, her life is shaken by new horrors. In the wake of September 11, she and her friends must deal with dark new complexities about their acculturation. Haunted by nightmares beyond her imagination, she nevertheless finds unexpected blessings: the possibility of new love and understanding for her family.
- Sawnet Review by Reeta Sinha
- Divakaruni continues to plumb the Indian immigrant experience. Houston Chronicle.
- Review in desijournal
- Imagined Homelands - interview in the Atlantic Monthly.
- The Vine of Desire
- The Vine of Desire continues the story of Anju and Sudha, the two young women at the center of Divakaruni's bestselling novel Sister of My Heart. Far from Calcutta, the city of their childhood, and after years of living separate lives, Anju and Sudha rekindle their friendship in America. The deep-seated love they feel for each other provides the support each of them needs. It gives Anju the strength to pick up the pieces of her life after a miscarriage, and Sudha the confidence to make a life for herself and her baby daughter, Dayita-without her husband. The women's bond is shaken to the core when they must confront the deeply passionate feelings that Anju's husband has for Sudha. Meanwhile, the unlikely relationships they form with men and women in the world outside the immigrant Indian community as well as with their families in India profoundly transform them, forcing them to question the central assumptions of their lives.
- Sawnet Review by Aiko Joshi
- The Unknown Errors of Our Lives
- In this collection, featuring tales set in India and America, Divakaruni illuminates the transformations of personal landscapes, real and imagined, brought about by the choices men and women make at every stage of their lives.
The stories include "Love Of A Good Man," a tale of a happily married Indian woman who must confront her past when her long-estranged father begs to meet his only grandson; "Mrs. Dutta Writes A Letter," (selected for Best American Short Stories, 1999), where a widow living in her son's Calfornia home discovers that her old world ways are an embarrassment to her daughter-in-law; "The Blooming Season For Cacti," where two women, uprooted from their native land by violence and deception, find unexpected solace in each other; and the title story where an artist is faced with her fiance's past a week before her wedding must make an important decision.
- Sawnet Review by Aiko Joshi, Uma Krishnaswami, Lisa E. J. Lau, Alaka Basu, Usha Rao
from the Randomhouse website
in Outlook India.
voice to unknown passions. LA Times review.
at Red Hot Curry
home and heritage. Review from Chicago Tribune.
you go, there you are. Review from Asian Week.
- Sister of my heart
- Anju is the daughter of an upper-caste Calcutta family of distinction. Sudha is the daughter of the black sheep of that same family. Sudha is startlingly beautiful; Anju is not. Despite these differences, since the day the two girls were born--the same day their fathers died, mysteriously and violently--Sudha and Anju have been sisters of the heart. Bonded in ways even their mothers cannot comprehend, the two girls grow into womanhood as if their fates, as well as their hearts, are merged.
When Sudha learns a dark family secret, that connection is threatened. For the first time in their lives, the girls know what it is to feel suspicion and distrust--Sudha, because she feels a new shame that she cannot share with Anju; and Anju, because she discovers the seductive power of her sister's beauty, a power Sudha herself is incapable of controlling. When, due to a change in family fortune, the girls are urged into arranged marriages, their lives take opposite turns. One travels to America, and one remains in India; both have lives of secrets. When tragedy strikes both of them, however, they discover that, despite distance and marriage, they must turn to each other once again.
- Sawnet Review by Susan Chacko
Review at Red Hot Curry
Readers guide in Oregon Live.
- Review by
Hema Nair in Little India.
- Critique by Amitava Kumar in Little India.
- Leaving Yuba City.
Anchor Books. (1997)
- Includes a series of poems based on and inspired by various art forms, including paintings by Francesco Clemente, photographs by Raghubir Singh, and specific Indian films, such as Salaam Bombay.
- The Mistress of Spices
Bantam Doubleday. (1997)
- The novel follows Tilo, a magical figure who runs a grocery store and uses spices to help the customers overcome difficulties. Tilo provides spices, not only for cooking, but also for the homesickness and alienation that the Indian immigrants in her shop experience. In the process, she develops dilemmas of her own when she falls in love with a non-Indian. This creates great conflicts, as she has to choose whether to serve her people or to follow the path leading to her own happiness. Tilo has to decide which parts of her heritage she will keep and which parts she will chose to abandon.
- Sawnet Review by Shampa Chatterjee, Susan Chacko
The Mistress of Spices -- from randomhouse.com. Includes an excerpt.
fantasy and Indian myths commingle in the rapturous prose of Chitra
Divakaruni, on Metro Active.
- Arranged Marriage
Anchor Books/Doubleday. . (1995)
- For the young girls and women brought to life in these stories, the possibility of change, of starting anew, is both as terrifying and filled with promise as the ocean that separates them from their homes in India. From the story of a young bride whose fairy-tale vision of California is shattered when her husband is murdered and she must face the future on her own, to a proud middle-aged divorced woman determined to succeed in San Francisco, Divakaruni's award-winning poetry fuses here with prose for the first time to create eleven devastating portraits of women on the verge of an unforgettable transformation.
- Sawnet Review by Susan Chacko, Priya Bradfield, Sangeeta Ray
- Review in Indolink
- Black Candle
- A collection of poetry that chronicles significant moments in the lives of South Asian women.
- The Reasons for Nasturtiums
- Dark Like the River