Storyteller: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Brown Girl is highlighting South Asians who have made significant contributions to American society.

by Shritin Patel – Houston Baptist University Graduate

A while ago, whilst gobbling up anything and everything I could get my hands on that was written by Indian authors, I came across Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Instantly I became mesmerized by her style of writing and how much time and effort was spent on giving each one of her characters a distinct personality. They have  faith, hope, and understanding, yet they are as complex and capable of fault as much as the next person. Divakaruni doesn’t just write stories and make up characters, she creates new worlds and breathes life into the participants.

Born and raised in Kolkata, India, Divakaruni left India to come to America. Once in America she put herself through grad school by taking on odd jobs such as slicing bread in a bakery, babysitting, and working as a lab assistant at the university she received her masters from: Wright University. Divakaruni also was a dining hall attendant at International House, Berkeley while pursuing her PhD at UC Berkeley.

Divakaruni has received numerous awards for her novels, short stories, and poetry; Her book “Mistress of Spices” was taken to the big screen in 2005 and starred Aishwariya Rai and Dylan McDermott *drools*. My personal favorite is “Palace of Illusions”. If you have ANY interest whatsoever in Indian history, culture, Mahabharata, and want to get a glimpse of it through the eyes of one of the most interesting and profound women in Indian history/myth – Draupadi…you HAVE to read this book. It instantly became one of my favorite books of all times and was the beginning of my unhealthy obsession with Divakaruni’s works.

Some of Divakaruni’s themes center along women, history, myth, magic, immigration and the South Asian experience, and celebrating diversity. If you like what you’ve read so far, sit in one of her classes. HOW you ask?!  Well, currently Divakaruni teaches at the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the University of Houston!

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one hip, smart, and beautiful South Asian lady, and I will continue to hopelessly fall in love with her characters and the realities she creates for them…and for me.

For more on Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, visit her blog: