Skip to main content
Select Source:

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee 1956-

DIVAKARUNI, Chitra Banerjee 1956-

Personal

Born July 29, 1956, in Calcutta, India; daughter of R. K. and Tatini Banerjee; married S. Murthy Divakaruni, June 29, 1979; children: Abhay, Anand (sons). Education: Calcutta University, B.A., 1976; Wright State University, M.A., 1978; University of CaliforniaBerkeley, Ph.D., 1985.

Addresses

Home Sunnydale, CA. Office Foothill College, English Department, 12345 El Monte Rd., Los Altos, CA 94022-4504.

Career

Diablo Valley College, professor of creative writing, 1987-89; Foothill College, Los Altos, CA, professor of creative writing, 1989. Mid-Peninsula Support Network for Battered Women, 1990; President, MAITRI (help-line for South Asian women), 1991.

Awards, Honors

Memorial Award, Barbara Deming Foundation, 1989; Writing Award, Santa Clara County Arts Council, 1990; Writing Award, Gerbode Foundation, 1993; Bay Area Book Reviewers Award for Fiction; PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Prize for Fiction; Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize and Pushcart Prize, both for Leaving Yuba City; American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1996, for Arranged Marriage: Stories; California Arts Council Award, 1998; The Mistress of Spices was named a best book of 1997 by the Los Angeles Times and a best paperback of 1998 by the Seattle Times.

Writings

FOR JUVENILES

Neela, Victory Song ("Girls of Many Lands" series), illustrated by Troy Howell, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2002.

The Conch Bearer (juvenile), Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.

FOR ADULTS

Dark like the River (poems), Writers Workshop [India], 1987.

The Reason for Nasturtiums (poems), Berkeley Poets Press (Berkeley, CA), 1990.

Black Candle: Poems about Women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Calyx Books (Corvallis, OR), 1991.

(Editor) Multitude: Cross-cultural Readings for Writers, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1993.

Arranged Marriage: Stories, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1995.

The Mistress of Spices (novel), Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Leaving Yuba City: New and Selected Poems, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1997.

(Editor) We, Too, Sing America, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1998.

Sister of My Heart (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.

The Unknown Errors of Our Lives: Stories, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2001.

The Vine of Desire (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 2002.

Queen of Dreams (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor, with James Quay and William E. Justice) California Covered: Stories for the Twenty-first Century, Heyday Books (Berkeley, CA), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including Ms., Beloit Poetry Journal, Chicago Review, Zyzzyva, and Chelsea.

Adaptations

The Mistress of Spices was adapted as an audiobook.

Sidelights

Poet, novelist, and short-story writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is known for her portrayals of immigrant Indian women. When Divakaruni, who was born in India, immigrated to the United States in 1976, she re-evaluated the role of Indian women. She draws on her own experiences and those of other immigrant Indian women to write novels and verse, including the award-winning Leaving Yuba City: New and Selected Poems, Arranged Marriage, a collection of short stories, and The Mistress of Spices, a novel. Divakaruni has also published two works for middle-grade readers: Neela, Victory Song and The Conch Bearer.

The Mistress of Spices revolves around an Indian girl with magical powers. After Tilo survives a shipwreck and is trained by a mysterious figure, she is sent through transmigration to act as the Mistress of Spices in an Indian store in Oakland, California. When Tilo falls in love with an Indian American, she must choose between her magic and a more mundane life. The novel garnered glowing reviews for the author's lyrical style, its combination of fantasy and realism, and its portrayal of the immigrant experience that goes beyond the stereotypical. "Divakaruni has written an unusual, clever and often exquisite first novel that stirs magical realism into the new conventions of culinary fiction and the still-simmering caldron of Indian immigrant life in America," observed Shashi Tharoor in the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Divakaruni's second novel, Sister of My Heart, is a realistic treatment of the relationship between two cousins, Sudha and Anju, who narrate alternating chapters of this modern drama that develops over decades. Divakaruni returns to the lives of Sudha and Anju in The Vine of Desire. In this sequel, Sudha comes to live with Anju after leaving her abusive husband. According to a Publishers Weekly critic, the author's "lyrical descriptions of the characters' inner and outer worlds bring a rich emotional chiaroscuro to an uplifting story about two women who learn to make peace with the difficult choices circumstances have forced upon them."

Neela, Victory Song, part of the "Girls of Many Lands" series, is set during the struggle for Indian independence, and centers on the adventures of a twelve-year-old girl whose father becomes involved in that struggle. When her father fails to return home after attending a protest march, Neela disguises herself as a boy, travels alone to Calcutta, and, with the help of an underground freedom fighter, hatches a plan to rescue her father from the government prison where he is being held. The author "turns a rare subject in children's literature into a well-paced, gripping story that captures universal emotions as well as the complexity of Neela's choices," observed Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg. Sarah Stone, reviewing the book on the Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color Web site, stated that "Victory Song not only educates young readers about India's culture and past but also manages to entertain brilliantly with a likeable main character and a suspenseful plot that keep young readers interested."

Divakaruni penned another book aimed at young audiences the following year. The Conch Bearer is a fantasy in which twelve-year-old Anand must return a magical conch shell to the distant Himalayas from which it came. Accompanied by Abhaydatta, a mystic healer, and Nisha, a street sweeper, Anand undertakes the dangerous journey, all the while pursued by the villainous Surabhanu. "This quest adventure has an exotic flavor," wrote Kathleen Isaacs in School Library Journal, noting the "magical background from traditional Indian tales, and deliciously detailed description of Indian foods." According to Horn Book critic Susan P. Bloom, "at the end of their perilous adventures Anand is faced with a poignant decision that will both deeply sadden and cheer readers."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

PERIODICALS

Amerasia Journal, Volume 22, 1996, pp. 249-250.

Black Issues in Higher Education, September 18, 1997, p. 26.

Bloomsbury Review, September, 1992, p. 19.

Book, January-February, 2002, Chris Barsanti, review of The Vine of Desire, p. 76.

Booklist, December 15, 1991, p. 745; July, 1995, pp. 1860, 1869; December 15, 1996, p. 692; August, 1997, p. 1871; November 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Neela, Victory Song, p. 597; September 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 236; April 1, 2004, Brian Wilson, review of The Conch Bearer (audiobook), p. 1392.

Childhood Education, mid-summer, 2004, Smita Guha, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 273.

English Journal, September, 1997, pp. 99-100.

Horn Book, January-February, 2004, Susan P. Bloom, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 81.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1995, p. 898; December 15, 1996, p. 1753; August 15, 2003, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 1071.

Kliatt, July, 1997, p. 49; September, 1997, p. 5.

Library Journal, June 15, 1995, p. 97; December, 1995, p. 192; February 1, 1997, p. 105; May 15, 1997, p. 118; July, 1997, p. 102; October 1, 1997, p. 86; January, 1999, p. 147; December, 2001, Robert E. Brown, review of The Vine of Desire, p. 170.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 9, 1997, p. 10; December 14, 1997, p. 5.

Ms., July, 1995, p. 77.

New York, June 23, 1997, p. 164.

New York Times Book Review, July 16, 1995, p. 53; April 13, 1997, p. 20; March 1, 1998, p. 32.

Publishers Weekly, June 5, 1995, p. 53; April 29, 1996, p. 69; January 13, 1997, pp. 51-52; August 25, 1997, p. 68; November 89, 1998, p. 55; May 14, 2001, Roxane Farmanfarmaian, "Writing from a Different Place," p. 46; November 26, 2001, review of The Vine of Desire, p. 38; August 18, 2003, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 80; December 15, 2003, review of The Conch Bearer (audiobook), p. 29; August 9, 2004, Bridget Kinsella, "Being American in Today's World," p. 229.

School Library Journal, December, 1995, p. 142; December, 2002, Alison Follos, review of Neela, Victory Song, p. 136; December, 2003, Kathleen Isaacs, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 149; May, 2004, Jane P. Fenn, review of The Conch Bearer (audiobook), p. 91.

Times Literary Supplement, March 21, 1997, p. 24.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), May 25, 1997, pp. 1, 9.

Washington Post Book World, December 15, 1996, p. 4.

Woman's Journal, February, 1997, p. 16.

World Literature Today, winter, 1998, p. 207; winter, 2002, Frederick Luis Aldama, review of The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, pp. 112-113.

ONLINE

About Women Writers Web site, http://womanwriters.about.com/ (April 29, 2003), review of The Vine of Desire.

AsianWeek Online, http://www.asianweek.com/ (April 27, 2001), Neela Banerjee, "Mistress of Self"; (April 27, 2001) Grace Talusan, "Wherever You Go, There You Are."

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Home Page, http://chitradivakaruni.com (February 18, 2004).

Time Online, http://www.time.com/ (April 29, 2003), "One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni."

Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color, http://voices.cla.umn.edu/ (April 29, 2003), "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni"; Sarah Stone, review of Neela, Victory Song. *

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee 1956-." Something About the Author. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee 1956-." Something About the Author. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 19, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee-1956

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee 1956-." Something About the Author. . Retrieved November 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee-1956

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

DIVAKARUNI, Chitra Banerjee

Nationality: Indian-American. Born: Chitra Banerjee in Calcutta, India, 29 July 1956. Education: Calcutta University, B.A. 1976; Wright State University, M.A. 1978; University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. 1985. Family: Married S. Murthy Divakaruni in 1979; two children. Career: Professor of creative writing, Diablo Valley College, 1987-89; Foothill College, Los Altos, California, 1989. Awards: Memorial Award (Barbara Deming Foundation), 1989; Writing Award (Santa Clara County Arts Council), 1990; Writing Award (Gerbode Foundation), 1993; Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award; Bay Area Book Reviews Award for Fiction; PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Prize for Fiction; Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize; Pushcart Prize. Address: Foothill College, English Department, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos, California 94022-4504, U.S.A.

Publications

Novels

The Mistress of Spices. New York, Anchor Books, 1997.

Sister of My Heart. New York, Doubleday, 1999.

Short Stories

Arranged Marriage: Stories. New York, Anchor Books, 1995.

Poetry

Dark Like the River. 1987.

The Reason for Nasturtiums. Berkeley Poets Press, 1990.

Black Candle: Poems about Women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Corvallis, Oregon, Calyx Books, 1991.

Leaving Yuba City: New and Selected Poems. New York, AnchorBooks, 1997.

Other

Editor, Multitude: Cross-Cultural Readings for Writers. Boston, McGraw-Hill, 1993.

Editor, We, Too, Sing America: A Reader for Writers. Boston, McGraw-Hill, 1998.

* * *

Indian-American author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has recently published poems, short stories, and novels, all of which generally focus on similar themes: the roles of women in India and America; the struggle to adapt to new ways of life when one's cultural traditions are in conflict with new cultural expectations; and the complexities of love between family members, lovers, and spouses. Divakaruni's work is often considered to be quasi-autobiographical as most of her stories are set in California near where she lives, confront the immigrant experiencespecifically, of Indians who settle in the U.S.and evaluate the treatment of Indian-American women both in India and America. Divakaruni is also an editor of two anthologies, Multitude: Cross-Cultural Readings for Writers and We, Too, Sing America: A Reader for Writers, that include stories concerned with similar issues.

Divakaruni's volumes of poetry, Dark Like the River, The Reason for Nasturtiums, Black Candle, and Leaving Yuba City, each uniquely address images of India, the Indian-American experience, and the condition of children and women in a patriarchal society. Also exploring the relationship between art forms, Divakaruni writes poetry inspired by paintings, photographs, and films. And, as in her novels, she focuses intently in her poetry on the experiences of women pursuing identities for themselves.

Arranged Marriage, Divakaruni's collection of short stories that focus on Indian and Indian-American women caught between two conflicting cultures, seems to have developed from her poem "Arranged Marriage" in Black Candle. Both the poem and the stories are concerned with the emotions of women whose lives are affected by the Indian tradition of arranged marriages, though Arranged Marriage explores a broader scope of issues, including divorce, abortion, racism, and economic inequality. Relying heavily on techniques such as doubling and pairing, the stories expose the adverse conditions of women living in India, though the collection also suggests that life in America is as difficult as in India, and indeed perhaps more so because of the contradictory feelings immigrant women often experience as they are torn between Indian cultural expectations and American life. Arranged Marriage considers both cultures equally, critiquing and praising particular aspects of each.

The themes Divakaruni explores in her poems and short stories are developed in her novels, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart. Stylistically experimental, The Mistress of Spices combines poetic language with prose in order to, as Divakaruni suggests, "collaps[e] the divisions between the realistic world of twentieth century America and the timeless one of myth and magic in [an] attempt to create a modern fable." Tilo, Mistress 's main character, is a young woman from a distant time and place whose training in the ancient craft of spices and initiation in the rite of fire allow her to become immortal and powerful. Traveling across time and space, Tilo comes to live in Oakland, California, in the form of an aged woman and establishes herself as a healer who prescribes spices as remedies for her customers. Although the novel appears to diverge thematically from the concerns in her poetry and short stories, Mistress does address similar issues, and as Tilo becomes involved in a romance that ultimately requires her to choose between two lifestylesa supernatural immortal life and a more typical modern lifeDivakaruni's themes of love, struggle, and opposing cultures become apparent.

Divakaruni's most recent novel, Sister of My Heart, is an expansion of and a variation on the short story "The Ultrasound" in Arranged Marriage. In the novel, two cousins, Anju and Sudah, who feel as though their lives are inextricably tied together, rely on each other for love, approval, and companionship. The women grow up together in the same house in Calcutta and have many similar experiences that bind them together, which leads them to feel as though they are sisters of the heart. However, when secrets regarding their births are revealed and the cousins are later physically separated because of arranged marriages, their unique relationship is tested, and the women struggle in the face of doubt and suspicion. Although one woman remains in India and the other moves to America, they experience similar traumas involving pregnancy and marriage and so come to rely on each other again for strength and support.

Stephannie Gearhart

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." Contemporary Novelists. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." Contemporary Novelists. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 19, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." Contemporary Novelists. . Retrieved November 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

DIVAKARUNI, Chitra Banerjee

Born 29 July 1956, Calcutta, India

Daughter of Tatini and R. K. Banerjee; married S. Murthy Divakaruni, 1979; children: Anand, Abhay

Born in India, living in America, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, as one of the new authors of Indian-American life, uses her poetry and prose to form a bridge from Calcutta to California. As quoted in an interview in India Currents, "We, Indian-Americans, are still an early immigrant culture. We remember the old country and lament the loss of our roots, which adds poignancy to our writing." In the same interview she spoke of crossing the boundaries from prose to poetry: "Writing poetry has taught me how to craft language carefully, whereas fiction writing has made me aware of the elements of story, characters, and drama that must exist even in poetry."

Divakaruni was born in Calcutta and, though Hindu, was educated at a convent school. She received her B.A. in English at the University of Calcutta and then immigrated to the United States at the age of twenty. She continued her English literature studies at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and then at the University of California at Berkeley, where she wrote her Ph.D. thesis (1985) on the plays of Christopher Marlowe. In the late 1990s she was a creative writing professor at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, and a writer whose works have won many awards and are translated into many languages.

Divakaruni wrote three books dealing with issues of Indian women: arranged marriages, immigration, domestic violence, racism, interracial relationships, abortion, divorce, and often ultimate independence for the women. Her writings come from her own experience as well as her encounters with South Asian women through Maitri (Friendship), a helpline she was instrumental in starting in 1991. The service offers counseling and referral to women suffering from domestic violence, depression, and cultural alienation.

After enrolling in a fiction writing class, she produced a book of short stories, Arranged Marriage (1995), which won the Bay Area Book Reviewers and PEN/Oakland awards for fiction, as well as the prestigious 1996 American Book Award for Fiction. These stories, according to Francine Prose, "are full of the details of Indian and Indian-American life: …the marriage dots on the forehead, the saris, the curries, the Hindi musical films, the marriages contracted after just a few modest minutes of 'brideviewing,'" indeed the "characters are performing the strenuous balancing act of having one foot in one country, the other foot in another." Ultimately, as Elaine Kim wrote in a review, these women "find out what 'being themselves' means, learn to take care of themselves in a new country," and by doing so, "discover and understand their complex womanhood." One story, "The Ultrasound," about two female cousins and their subsequent pregnancies, has been expanded into her most recent novel, Sister of My Heart (1999).

Divakaruni's first novel, Mistress of Spices (1997), was wildly successful and translated into many different languages. The narrator is an ageless woman who learns the magical properties of spices and treats the people in the Oakland, California, neighborhood she inhabits as a storekeeper. Then she falls in love and must choose between her customers or her own life. As Lara Merlin put it, "Addressing the immigrant experience in particular, she [Divakaruni] asks how to negotiate between the needs of each [the self and the community] under the earth-moving stress of desire.… She conjures up a new American identity." Mistress of Spices was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in England and called by the Los Angeles Times one of the best books of 1997.

Sister of My Heart has already won praise from reviewers. It is the story of two Indian women who are born in the same home and regard themselves as sisters. They grow up, have arranged marriages, and one moves to the U.S. while the other stays home in India. This novel encompasses many of the issues women face, such as abortion, love affairs, class issues, and emotional involvement between two women. In India Currents, Divakaruni answers a question about romance in the following way: "In Sister of My Heart I wanted to show how romance complicates the lives of Anju and Sudha, though, ultimately it doesn't destroy their bond. Our [women's] friendships are just as important as our marriages and we should make every attempt to nurture them."

Divakaruni has also compiled and edited multicultural anthologies, which include stories from immigrant perspectives, for her students to widen their knowledge about the world and the women that inhabit a particular space in it.

Other Works:

"Searching for the Goddess," Woman Of Power (1990). Searching for the Goddess (1990). The Reason for Nasturtiums (1990). Black Candle: Poems about Women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (1991). Leaving Yuba City: New and Selected Poems (1997). English 1302 Fiction Reader: Thinking Critically About the Short Story (coeditor, 1994). Multitude: Cross-Cultural Readings for Writers (editor, 1997). We, too, Sing America: A Reader for Writers (editor, 1998).

Bibliography:

India Currents (interview, Feb. 1999).

Reference Works:

Asian American Almanac (1995). Who's Who Among Asian Americans (1994).

Other references: Amerasia Journal (Spring 1996). Black Issues in Higher Education (18 Sept. 1997). Confrontation (Spring-Summer 1996). English Journal (Sept. 1997). Ethnicity and the American Short Story (1997). Ms. (July-Aug. 1995). Poets & Writers (Sept.-Oct. 1998). NYTBR (13 Apr. 1997, 1 Mar. 1998). TLS (21 Mar. 1997). Virginia Quarterly Review (Spring 1998). World Literature Today (Winter 1998). WRB (Mar. 1996)

—JACQUELYN MARIE

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 19, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . Retrieved November 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

DIVAKARUNI, Chitra Banerjee

DIVAKARUNI, Chitra Banerjee. Indian, b. 1956. Genres: Poetry, Novels, Novellas/Short stories. Career: Diablo Valley College, professor of creative writing, 1987-89; Foothill College, Los Altos, CA, professor of creative writing, 1989-. MidPeninsula Support Network for Battered Women, 1990-; President, MAITRI (help-line for South Asian women), 1991-. Publications: POETRY: Dark Like the River, 1987; The Reason for Nasturtiums, 1990; Black Candle, 1991; Leaving Yuba City: New and Selected Poems, 1997. STORIES: Arranged Marriage, 1995; The unknown errors of our lives : stories, 2001. NOVELS: The Mistress of Spices, 1997; Sister of My Heart, 1999; Neela, victory song, 2002; The Vine of Desire, 2002. EDITOR: Multitude, 1993; We, Too, Sing America, 1998. Contributor to periodicals. Address: Foothill College, English Department, 12345 El Monte Rd., Los Altos, CA 94022, U.S.A.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." Writers Directory 2005. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." Writers Directory 2005. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 19, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee." Writers Directory 2005. . Retrieved November 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee 1956-

DIVAKARUNI, Chitra Banerjee 1956-

PERSONAL: Born July 29, 1956, in Calcutta, India; daughter of R. K. and Tatini Banerjee; married S. Murthy Divakaruni, June 29, 1979; children: Abhay, Anand (sons). Education: Calcutta University, B.A., 1976; Wright State University, M.A., 1978; University of California—Berkeley, Ph.D., 1985.

ADDRESSES: Home—Sunnydale, CA. Office—Foothill College, English Department, 12345 El Monte Rd., Los Altos, CA 94022-4504.

CAREER: Diablo Valley College, professor of creative writing, 1987-89; Foothill College, Los Altos, CA, professor of creative writing, 1989—. Mid-Peninsula Support Network for Battered Women, 1990—; President, MAITRI (help-line for South Asian women), 1991—.

AWARDS, HONORS: Memorial Award, Barbara Deming Foundation, 1989; Writing Award, Santa Clara County Arts Council, 1990; Writing Award, Gerbode Foundation, 1993; Bay Area Book Reviewers Award for Fiction; PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Prize for Fiction; Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize and Pushcart Prize, both for Leaving Yuba City; American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1996, for Arranged Marriage: Stories; California Arts Council Award, 1998; The Mistress of Spices was named a best book of 1997 by the Los Angeles Times and a best paperback of 1998 by the Seattle Times.

WRITINGS:

Dark Like the River (poems), Writers Workshop [India], 1987.

The Reason for Nasturtiums (poems), Berkeley Poets Press (Berkeley, CA), 1990.

Black Candle: Poems about Women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Calyx Books (Corvallis, OR), 1991.

(Editor) Multitude: Cross-cultural Readings for Writers, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1993.

Arranged Marriage: Stories, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1995.

The Mistress of Spices (novel), Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Leaving Yuba City: New and Selected Poems, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1997.

(Editor) We, Too, Sing America, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1998.

Sister of My Heart (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.

The Unknown Errors of Our Lives: Stories, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2001.

The Vine of Desire: A Novel, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2002.

Neela, Victory Song (juvenile), illustrated by Troy Howell, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2002.

The Conch Bearer: A Novel (juvenile), Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.

Queen of Dreams: A Novel, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to more than fifty periodicals, including Ms., Beloit Poetry Journal, Chicago Review, Zyzzyva, and Chelsea.

ADAPTATIONS: The Mistress of Spices was adapted as an audiobook.

SIDELIGHTS: Poet, novelist, and short-story writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is known for her portrayals of immigrant Indian women. When Divakaruni, who was born in India, immigrated to the United States in 1976, she reevaluated the role of Indian women. She drew on her own experiences and those of other immigrant Indian women to write novels and verse. In Black Candle, she tells of women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Arranged Marriage, a collection of short stories, portrays immigrant Indian women who are caught between the two cultures. Her novel The Mistress of Spices, a blend of poetry and prose, revolves around a female character who must choose between her own culture and that of her non-Indian love.

The poems in Black Candle, which first appeared in various poetry magazines, are in free verse, "straightforward narrative poems," to quote Nina Mehta of Bloomsbury Review. They tell of women at various levels of desperation and despair, including women who are killed because their dowry was too small, who are driven into prostitution, or who commit suicide. "After reading these poems, it's clear that the collection's title is an apt metaphor for the scorched lives of the women Divakaruni portrays," commented Mehta, who wondered why Divakaruni did not tell these tales as short stories, but nevertheless gave "Sondra" and "All in My Head" special praise. Booklist reviewer Pat Monaghan remarked on the political nature of the work, yet considered it to be more than a tract because of Divakaruni's "sensuous" language and deep feeling. An "exemplary" collection, Monaghan asserted.

In the collection of short stories Arranged Marriage, Divakaruni depicts women living in India or in the United States for whom arranged marriages had been made, as is the custom in India. Each woman's struggles, according to Ginny Ryder in the School Library Journal, read like "tiny soap operas" with "appealing pathos." Reviewers praised the work highly. In the New York Times Book Review, Rose Kernochan described the stories as "appealing" and "irresistible;" and Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, called Divakaruni a "virtuoso," lauding Arranged Marriage for its "ravishingly beautiful stories" in which the author gives glimpses of the soul in the everyday world.

Divakaruni's first novel, The Mistress of Spices, revolves around an Indian girl with magical powers. After Tilo survives a shipwreck and is trained by a mysterious figure, she is sent through transmigration to act as the Mistress of Spices in an Indian store in Oakland, California. There she serves the overt and hidden needs of her Indian immigrant clientele. When Tilo falls in love with an Indian American, she must choose between her magic and a more mundane life.

The novel garnered glowing reviews for the author's lyrical style, its combination of fantasy and realism, and its portrayal of the immigrant experience that goes beyond the stereotypical. "Divakaruni has written an unusual, clever and often exquisite first novel that stirs magical realism into the new conventions of culinary fiction and the still-simmering caldron of Indian immigrant life in America," praised Shashi Tharoor in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. In a review for Chicago Tribune Books, Tammie Bob noted Divakaruni's "distinct storytelling, setting, and subject," as well as the novel's "opulence of language, graceful narratives that weave intense, poetic images" and "fascinating characters." "If Tilo's choice is rather predictable, the way Ms. Divakaruni gets us there is anything but," enthused David Guy in the New York Times Book Review. According to Tharoor, Divakaruni's style is "distinctive. Her penchant for sentence fragments, once you get used to her cadences, often works to good effect. . . . She has an allergy to question-marks that sometimes leads her interrogatories to fall flat. But her narrative is infused with poetry." Likewise, Bob maintained that "due to Divakaruni's lovely prose, the magic seems reliable and credible." On the topic of magic, Tharoor thought otherwise, however. "Although Divakaruni does the magic rather well, writing about the mystical spices in prose that raises light off the page like so many wisps of incense, she is best at the realism. She has a keen feel for immigrant life."

In her poetry collection Leaving Yuba City, for which she won a Pushcart Prize and an Allen Ginsberg Prize, Divakaruni joins "personal experience with cultural history in a soft but powerful voice," to quote Library Journal reviewer Ann van Buren. Her verse and prose poems treat such subjects as an abusive father, Indian men who immigrated to Yuba City, California, in 1910, Indian movies, and the dreamscapes of American painter Francesco Clemente. According to a Publishers Weekly critic, Divakaruni's treatment of women's experiences "often deepens as it is arrayed against varying cultural grounds." Likening the poems to meteors plunging into readers' hearts, Donna Seaman of Booklist described the poems as "lyrical and haunting" and "shimmeringly detailed and emotionally acute."

Divakaruni's second novel, Sister of My Heart, is a realistic treatment of the relationship between two cousins, Sudha and Anju, who narrate alternating chapters of this modern drama that develops over decades. While critics were less enthusiastic about this novel than The Mistress of Spices, they commended Divakaruni's efforts. Library Journal critic Wilda Williams faulted the author for a "contrived" plot and stereotypical characters; yet she found the novel to be an "engaging read" with many "tender, moving moments." So, too, a Publishers Weekly reviewer challenged her sometimes overwrought prose, but judged Sister of My Heart to be a "masterful allegory of unfulfilled desire and sacrificial love."

The author followed Sister of My Heart with another collection of short stories, The Unknown Errors of Our Lives. According to Grace Talusan for AsianWeek, in this volume "Divakaruni's characters discover [a] sense of belonging and safety through struggles faced negotiating relationships with family, friends, strangers and self. The protagonists must face the disparities between the lives they have and the realities of human existence. They face the limitations of love, the disappointment of dreams, and the consequences of errors that beg to be resolved." The critic went on to cite the title story and "Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter" as particularly praiseworthy. Frederick Luis Aldama, reviewing The Unknown Errors of Our Lives in World Literature Today, championed the book as well. "Divakaruni's keen eye for detail and poetic turns of phrase make for a collection of stories that fill out the lives of those who experience the brunt of today's violence of racism and sexism. However," he concluded, "she does not leave her readers only with a sense of tragedy. Perhaps discovering one's creative possibilities will allow one to find happiness only to be experienced, as one character reflects, in 'the long effort of exploration.'"

Divakaruni returned to the lives of Sudha and Anju in 2002's The Vine of Desire. In this sequel, Sudha comes to live with Anju after leaving her abusive husband, and must fight the love she has always inspired in Anju's husband. After she loses this fight, Sudha takes her daughter and moves on to other adventures and experiences of her own. According to a Publishers Weekly critic, the author's "lyrical descriptions of the characters' inner and outer worlds bring a rich emotional chiaroscuro to an uplifting story about two women who learn to make peace with the difficult choices circumstances have forced upon them." As Robert E. Brown put it in the Library Journal, "the plot twists, the characters are engaging, and Divakaruni's vaunted style is evident." Chris Barsanti in Book concluded that The Vine of Desire "is a potent, emotional book delivered by a writer who knows how to step back and take in the poetry."

In the same year that The Vine of Desire appeared, Divakaruni also published a novel for middle readers. Neela, Victory Song is set during the struggle for Indian independence, and centers on the adventures of a twelve-year-old girl whose father becomes involved in that struggle. Sarah Stone reviewed the book for the Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color Web site, saying that "Victory Song not only educates young readers about India's culture and past but also manages to entertain brilliantly with a likeable main character and a suspenseful plot that keep young readers interested." Divakaruni penned another book aimed at young audiences the following year. The Conch Bearer is a fantasy in which twelve-year-old Anand must return a magical conch shell to the far away Himalayas from which it came.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

PERIODICALS

Amerasia Journal, Volume 22, 1996, pp. 249-250.

Black Issues in Higher Education, September 18, 1997, p. 26.

Bloomsbury Review, September, 1992, p. 19.

Book, January-February, 2002, Chris Barsanti, review of The Vine of Desire, p. 76.

Booklist, December 15, 1991, p. 745; July, 1995, pp. 1860, 1869; December 15, 1996, p. 692; August, 1997, p. 1871; November 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Neela, Victory Song, p. 597; September 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 236.

English Journal, September, 1997, pp. 99-100.

Horn Book Magazine, January-February, 2004, Susan P. Bloom, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 81.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1995, p. 898; December 15, 1996, p. 1753; August 15, 2003, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 1071.

Kliatt, July, 1997, p. 49; September, 1997, p. 5.

Library Journal, June 15, 1995, p. 97; December, 1995, p. 192; February 1, 1997, p. 105; May 15, 1997, p. 118; July, 1997, p. 102; October 1, 1997, p. 86; January, 1999, p. 147; December, 2001, Robert E. Brown, review of The Vine of Desire, p. 170.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 9, 1997, p. 10; December 14, 1997, p. 5.

Ms., July, 1995, p. 77.

New York, June 23, 1997, p. 164.

New York Times Book Review, July 16, 1995, p. 53; April 13, 1997, p. 20; March 1, 1998, p. 32.

Publishers Weekly, June 5, 1995, p. 53; April 29, 1996, p. 69; January 13, 1997, pp. 51-52; August 25, 1997, p. 68; November 89, 1998, p. 55; May 14, 2001, Roxane Farmanfarmaian, "Writing from a Different Place," p. 46; November 26, 2001, review of The Vine of Desire, p. 38; August 18, 2003, review of The Conch Bearer, p. 80.

School Library Journal, December, 1995, p. 142; December, 2002, Alison Follos, review of Neela, Victory Song, p. 136.

Times Literary Supplement, March 21, 1997, p. 24.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), May 25, 1997, pp. 1, 9.

Washington Post Book World, December 15, 1996, p. 4.

Woman's Journal, February, 1997, p. 16.

World Literature Today, winter, 1998, p. 207; winter, 2002, Frederick Luis Aldama, review of The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, pp. 112-113.

ONLINE

About Women Writers,http://womanwriters.about.com/ (April 29, 2003), review of The Vine of Desire.

AsianWeek,http://www.asianweek.com/ (April 27, 2001), Neela Banerjee, "Mistress of Self"; (April 27, 2001), Grace Talusan, "Wherever You Go, There You Are."

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Home Page,http://chitradivakaruni.com/ (February 18, 2004).

Time Online,http://www.time.com/ (April 29, 2003), "One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni."

Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color,http://voices.cla.umn.edu/ (April 29, 2003), "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni," Sarah Stone, review of Neela, Victory Song.*

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee 1956-." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee 1956-." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 19, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee-1956

"Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee 1956-." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Retrieved November 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/divakaruni-chitra-banerjee-1956

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.