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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (born Chitralekha Banerjee, 1957 - ) is an Indian-American author, poet, and the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Writing at the nationally-ranked University of Houston Creative Writing Program.

Her short story collection Arranged Marriage won an American Book Award in 1995, and two of her novels (The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart) were adapted into films. Mistress of Spices was short-listed for the Orange Prize.

Divakaruni's works are largely set in Indiamarker and the United Statesmarker, 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, and fantasy.


Chitralekha Banerjee Divakaruni was born in Kolkatamarker (Calcutta), Indiamarker. She received her B.A. from the University of Calcutta in 1976. That same year, she went to the United Statesmarker to attend Wright State Universitymarker where she received her Master's degree. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeleymarker in 1985 (Christopher Marlowe was the subject of her doctoral dissertation).


Divakaruni put herself through graduate school by working at a number of odd jobs. She was a babysitter, a store clerk, a bread slicer in a bakery, a dining hall attendant at International House, Berkeleymarker, and a laboratory assistant at Wright State Universitymarker. She taught at Foothill Collegemarker in Los Altos, Californiamarker as well as Diablo Valley Collegemarker. She now lives in Texasmarker, where she teaches at The University of Houston Creative Writing Program.

Divakaruni is a co-founder and former president of a helpline for South Asian women who are dealing with various forms of domestic abuse. The organization, Maitri, was founded in 1991.Divakaruni serves on its advisory board and on the advisory board of a similar organization in Houston, Daya. She also serves on the Houston board of Pratham, a non profit organization working to bring literacy to disadvantaged Indian children.


Fiction and Poetry

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 20 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Indonesian 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. [146239]

Divakaruni's first collection of stories, Arranged Marriage, won an American Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Award, and a Bay Area Book Reviewers Award and greatly increased her visibility. Her major novels include The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart and Queen of Dreams. While many of her novels are written for adults, she has also written the first two books in a juvenile fantasy series called The Brotherhood of the Conch which, like many of her adult novels, takes place 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. The third and final book of the series, Shadowland, will be published in 2009.

Divakaruni's latest novel for adults, The Palace of Illusions is a re-telling of the Indian epic, The Mahabharata from a female character's perspective. [146240]

Film and television

Her novel, The Mistress of Spices, was released as the film The Mistress of Spices in 2005. It is directed by Paul Mayeda Berges, with a script by Berges and his wife, Gurinder Chadha. The film stars Aishwarya Rai.

In addition, her novel Sister of my Heart was made into a television series in Tamil and aired in India, as Anbulla Snegithiye (Loving Friend). [146241]


  • Poetry
    • Indian Movie, New Jersey
    • Leaving Yuba City (1997)
    • Black Candle (1991)
    • The Reason for Nasturtiums (1990)

  • Anthologies
    • California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century (2004)
    • We Too Sing America (1997)
    • Multitude:Cross Cultural Readings for Writers (1993)


"The Art of dissolving boundaries is what living is all about." [146242]


  • 2009: Cultural Jewel Award from the Indian Culture Center, Houston.
  • 2008: University of California at Berkeley International House Alumna of the Year Award.
  • 2007: Distinguished Writer Award from the South Asian Literary Association.
  • 2003: "The Lives of Strangers" included in O'Henry Prize Stories.
  • 2003: Pushcart Prize for "The Lives of Strangers."
  • 1999: "Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter" included in Best American Short Stories.
  • 1998: Seattle Times Best Paperbacks of 1998 for Mistress of Spices.
  • 1997: The Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize and the Pushcart Prize for poems in Leaving Yuba City: New and Selected Poems.
  • 1997: Mistress of Spices shortlisted for The Orange Prize.
  • 1997: Los Angeles Times Best Books of 1997 for Mistress of Spices.
  • 1995: The American Book Award for Arranged Marriage: Stories.
  • PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award for Arranged Marriage: Stories.
  • Bay Area Book Reviewers Award for Fiction for Arranged Marriage: Stories.

See also


  • Abcarian, Richard and Marvin Klotz. "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni." In Literature: The Human Experience, 9th edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006: 1544.

  • Aldana, Frederick Luis. "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: The Unknown Errors of Our Lives." World Literature Today. University of Oklahoma. 1 Jan 2002.

  • Softsky, Elizabeth. "Cross Cultural Understanding Spiced with the Indian Diaspora." Black Issues in Higher Education 14 (15):26. 18 Sep 1997.

  • X.J. Kennedy et al. The Bedford Reader, 10th edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007: 446.

  • Newton, Pauline T. Transcultural Women of Later Twentieth Century U.S. American Literature. Ashgate Publishing, 2005.

  • Merlin, Lara. "The Mistress of Spices." World Literature Today. University of Oklahoma. 1 Jan 1998.

  • Johnson, Sarah Anne. "Writing outside the Lines." Writer 117(3):20 Mar 2004.

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