Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was born as Chitralekha Banerjee in Kolkata in 1956. Chitralekha Banerjee Divakaruni 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 then received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985. This Indian American author, poet, and a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Houston is known for her use of magical realism and symbols in her works.
Divakaruni's works, largely set in India and the United States, concentrate on the experiences of South Asian immigrants. Both children and adults have enjoyed her works with her publishing novels in multiple genres, including realistic fiction, historical fiction, magical realism, and fantasy.
Her book Arranged Marriage is a collection of short stories about women from India caught between two worlds. In The Mistress of Spices, the character Tilo provides spices, not only for cooking, but also as a remedy for homesickness and alienation that the Indian immigrants experience. In Sister of My Heart, two cousins—one in America, the other in India, share details of their lives with each other and help each other solve problems that threaten their marriages. Divakaruni writes to unite people. Her aim is to destroy myths and stereotypes. She hopes through her writing to dissolve boundaries between people of different backgrounds, communities, ages, and even different worlds.
Before she began her career in writing fiction, Divakaruni was an acclaimed poet. She writes poems encompassing a wide variety of themes, and she once again directs much focus to the immigrant experience and to South Asian women. She shows the experiences and struggles involved in women trying to find their own identities. Poems from Divakaruni’s collection, Leaving Yuba City, won a Pushcart Prize, an Allen Ginsberg Prize and a Gerbode Foundation award.
Divakaruni has co-founded 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 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.
Divakaruni lives in Houston with her husband Murthy, her two sons Anand and Abhay and Juno, the family dog.
Click here to read up more about Chitra's inspirations and her love for folk legends