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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
29 July 1956
|Alma mater||University of Calcutta|
Wright State University
University of California, Berkeley
|Genre||poetry, short stories, novels; fantasy, young adult, magical realism, historical fiction|
|Notable works||Mistress of Spices|
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (born Chitralekha Banerjee, July 29, 1956) 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, 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. That 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).
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).
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. 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.
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 is a re-telling of the Indian epic The Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective. 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.
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.
Her story Clothes from the collection Arranged Marriage was adapted into play under the title Arranged Marriage by Peggy Shannon "at the Sacramento Theatre Company in 2004 with Shahnaz Shroff in the featured role of Sumita and Saffron Henke playing all the other speaking roles, male and female. The sold-out production ran for 10 weeks and then extended for another four weeks in an intimate 100-seat theatre." In 2010, Shannon "revisited the play, further adapting it for a new cast and a 350 seat theatre." The first canadian staging was also directed by Peggy Shannon and performed in May 2016 by the Ryerson Theatre School in Toronto with more than 30 performers in a Bollywood-style musical setting. 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 with original compostions by Jack Perla and was shown again in 2015 by the opera company Festival Opera, directed by Tanya Kane-Parry at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.
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.
Divakaruni's novel One Amazing Thing has currently[when?] been optioned by the Hollywood production company Gillen Group.