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About Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the award-winning author of 18 books. Her themes include the Indian experience, contemporary America, women, immigration, history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world. Her work has been published in over 100 magazines and anthologies and translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi and Japanese. She has won numerous awards, including an American
Book Award and the internation Premio Scanno Prize. Divakaruni also writes for children and young adults.
Her latest novel is Oleander Girl (Simon and Schuster, 2013). Her upcoming novel is Before We Visit the Goddess (about 3 generations of women-- grandmother, mother and daughter-- who each examine the question "what does it mean to be a successful woman." April 2016, Simon & Schuster.)
Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies. Her novels One Amazing Thing and Palace of Illusions have been optioned. Her collection of stories, Arranged Marriage has been made into a play.
She was born in India and came to the United States to continue her education, receiving a Master’s degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
She currently teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the Univ. of Houston. She serves on the Advisory board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay Area and Daya in Houston, organizations that help South Asian or South Asian American women in abusive situations. She is also closely involved with Pratham, an organization that helps educate children (especially those living in urban slums) in India.
She has judged several prestigious awards, such as the National Book Award and the PEN Faulkner Award.
She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy and has two sons, Anand and Abhay (whose names she has used in her children’s novels).
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Taking us back to a time that is half history, half myth and wholly magical, bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni gives voice to Panchaali, the fire-born heroine of the Mahabharata, as she weaves a vibrant retelling of an ancient epic saga.
Married to five royal husbands who have been cheated out of their father's kingdom, Panchaali aids their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at their side through years of exile and a terrible civil war. But she cannot deny her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna—or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands' most dangerous enemy—as she is caught up in the ever-manipulating hands of fate.
Anju is the daughter of an upper-caste Calcutta family of distinction. Her cousin Sudha is the daughter of the black sheep of that same family. Sudha is startlingly beautiful; Anju is not. Despite those differences, since the day on which 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 were merged.
But, when Sudha learns a dark family secret, that connection is shattered. For the first time in their lives, the girls know what it is to feel suspicion and distrust. Urged into arranged marriages, Sudha and Anju's lives take opposite turns. Sudha becomes the dutiful daughter-in-law of a rigid small-town household. Anju goes to America with her new husband and learns to live her own life of secrets. When tragedy strikes each of them, however, they discover that despite distance and marriage, they have only each other to turn to.
Set in the two worlds of San Francisco and India, this exceptionally moving novel tells a story at once familiar and exotic, seducing readers from the first page with the lush prose we have come to expect from Divakaruni. Sister of My Heart is a novel destined to become as widely beloved as it is acclaimed.
Now immortal, and living in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman, Tilo has set up shop in Oakland, California, where she administers curatives to her customers. But when she's surprised by an unexpected romance with a handsome stranger, she must choose between everlasting life and the vicissitudes of modern society. Spellbinding and hypnotizing, The Mistress of Spices is a tale of joy, sorrow, and one special woman's magical powers.
Sweeping across the twentieth century, from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston, Texas, Before We Visit the Goddess takes readers on an extraordinary journey through the lives of three unforgettable women: Sabitri, Bela, and Tara. As the young daughter of a poor rural baker, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but schooling is impossible on the meager profits from her mother’s sweetshop. When a powerful local woman takes Sabitri under her wing, her generous offer soon proves dangerous after Sabitri makes a single, unforgiveable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees to America with her political refugee lover—but the world she finds is vastly different from her dreams. As the marriage crumbles and Bela decides to forge her own path, she unwittingly teaches her little girl, Tara, indelible lessons about freedom and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.
Told through a sparkling symphony of voices—those of the women themselves and the men who loved them—Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental relationships, showing the deep threads of love and hope and bravery that define a family and a life. This is a “gracefully insightful, dazzlingly descriptive, and covertly stinging tale [that] illuminates the opposition women must confront, generation by generation, as they seek both independence and connection” (Booklist, starred review).
THOUGH SHE WAS ORPHANED AT BIRTH, the wild and headstrong Korobi Roy has enjoyed a privileged childhood with her adoring grandparents, spending her first seventeen years sheltered in a beautiful, crumbling old mansion in Kolkata. But despite all that her grandparents have done for her, she is troubled by the silence that surrounds the circumstances of her parents’ death and clings fiercely to her only inheritance from them: the love note she found, years ago, hidden in a book of poetry that had belonged to her mother. As she grows, Korobi dreams of one day finding a love as powerful as her parents’, and it seems her wish has finally come true when she meets the charming Rajat, the only son of a high-profile business family.
Shortly after their engagement, however, a sudden heart attack kills Korobi’s grandfather, revealing serious financial problems and a devastating secret about Korobi’s past. Shattered by this discovery and by her grandparents’ betrayal, Korobi decides to undertake a courageous search across post-9/11 America to find her true identity. Her dramatic, often startling journey will ultimately thrust her into the most difficult decision of her life.
With flawless narrative instinct and a boundless sympathy for her irrepressible characters, in Oleander Girl Divakaruni brings us a perfect treat of a novel— moving, wise, and unforgettable. As The Wall Street Journal raves, “Divakaruni emphasizes the cathartic force of storytelling with sumptuous prose. . . . She defies categorization.”
Late afternoon sun sneaks through the windows of a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers and even most office workers 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 characters together, their focus first jolts to their 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. And 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. From Chitra Divakaruni, author of such finely wrought, bestselling novels as Sister of My Heart, The Palace of Illusions, and The Mistress of Spices, comes her most compelling and transporting story to date. One Amazing Thing is a passionate creation about survival -- and about the reasons to survive.
In this dazzling historical novel, based on true-life events, bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni presents the unforgettable story of Jindan, a young woman who rose from daughter of the royal kennel keeper to become the last reigning queen of India’s Sikh Empire.
Sharp-eyed, stubborn, and passionate, Jindan was known for her beauty. When she caught the eye of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, she was elevated to royalty, becoming his youngest and last queen—and his favorite. And when her son, barely six years old, unexpectedly inherited the throne, Jindan assumed the regency. She transformed herself into a warrior ruler, determined to protect her people and her son’s birthright from the encroaching British Empire.
Defying tradition, she stepped out of the zenana, cast aside the veil, and conducted state business in public, inspiring her subjects in two wars against the “firangs.” Her power and influence were so formidable that the British, fearing an uprising, robbed the rebel queen of everything she had, including her son. She was imprisoned and exiled, but nothing crushed her indomitable will.
An exquisite love story of a king and a commoner, a cautionary tale about loyalty and betrayal, and a powerful parable of the indestructible bond between mother and child, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel brings alive one of the most fearless women of the nineteenth century, one whose story cries out to be told, an inspiration for our times.
Food can bring together families, communities, and cultures. It is the essence of life and yet our relationships with one another can be most fraught at the dinner table. This perpetually fascinating subject has inspired a unique collection of fiction—including flash fiction, essay, short stories, and even a "stoku" (amalgam of short story and haiku)—from a wonderfully diverse and international group of authors.
The authors in the anthology include Elaine Chiew, Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni, Rachel J. Fenton, Diana Ferraro, Vanessa Gebbie, Pippa Goldschmidt, Sue Guiney, Patrick J. Holland, Roy Kesey, Charles Lambert, Krys Lee, Stefani Nellen, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Ben Okri, Angie Pelekidis, Susannah Rickards, and Nikesh Shukla.
Elaine Chiew is a London-based writer who has won several prizes for her short stories and flash fiction. She was included in One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories. Many of her stories revolve around food.
Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author, poet, activist, and teacher of writing. She has been published in many magazines and her writing has been included in over fifty anthologies.
Ben Okri has published eight novels, including The Famished Road and Starbook, as well as collections of poetry, short stories, and essays. He has won numerous international prizes.
Pippa Goldschmidt writes long and short fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Her PhD in astronomy inspired her first novel The Falling Sky, about a female astronomer who discovers the Universe and loses her mind.
Anju and Sudha formed an astounding, almost psychic connection during their childhood in India. When Anju invites Sudha, a single mother in Calcutta, to come live with her and her husband, Sunil, in California, Sudha foolishly accepts, knowing full well that Sunil has long desired her. As Sunil’s attraction rises to the surface, the trio must struggle to make sense of the freedoms of America–and of the ties that bind them to India and to one another.