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Chitra Banerjee
Award Winning Author
Poet, Activist, & Professor
Travels from: Houston, Texas

“For those of us who read to escape the banalities of daily life, Chitra Divakaruni’s books are oxygen. She writes about India in a way that makes the rest of the world disappear around you.” — Chicago Tribune

Dr. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author, poet, activist and professor. Her children’s books include Grandma and the Great Gourd, The Conch Bearer, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming and Shadowland.

Her adult titles include Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Oleander Girl, Before We Visit the Goddess and Palace of Illusions. Her latest novels are The Forest of Enchantments, a feminist retelling of the epic The Ramayana in the voice of Sita, and The Last Queen, the story of Maharani Jindan, the indomitable queen regent of Punjab who fought the British in many ingenious ways. Divakaruni often writes about contemporary life in America and India, women’s experiences, immigration, history, magical realism and mythology.

Two books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies. Several others are under option in Hollywood and in India. Her short story “The Word Love,” was made into an award-winning short film, Amaar Ma. Arranged Marriage has been made into a play and performed in both USA and Canada. Palace of Illusions has been performed on the stage in USA and India. Mistress of Spices is in the process of being made into an opera. Her novel One Amazing Thing has been chosen as a city-wide or campus-wide read in over 36 cities and institutions across the U.S.

Independence

William Morrow |
Fiction

Set during the partition of British India in 1947, a time when neighbor was pitted against neighbor and families were torn apart, award-winning author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel brings to life the sweeping story of three sisters caught up in events beyond their control, their unbreakable bond, and their incredible struggle against powerful odds.

India, 1947.

In a rural village in Bengal live three sisters, daughters of a well-respected doctor.

Priya: intelligent and idealistic, resolved to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor, though society frowns on it.

Deepa: the beauty, determined to make a marriage that will bring her family joy and status.

Jamini: devout, sharp-eyed, and a talented quiltmaker, with deeper passions than she reveals.

Theirs is a home of love and safety, a refuge from the violent events taking shape in the nation. Then their father is killed during a riot, and even their neighbors turn against them, bringing the events of their country closer to home.

As Priya determinedly pursues her career goal, Deepa falls deeply in love with a Muslim, causing her to break with her family. And Jamini attempts to hold her family together, even as she secretly longs for her sister’s fiancè

When the partition of India is officially decided, a drastic—and dangerous—change is in the air. India is now for Hindus, Pakistan for Muslims. The sisters find themselves separated from one another, each on different paths. They fear for what will happen to not just themselves, but each other.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni outdoes herself with this deeply moving story of sisterhood and friendship, painting an account of India’s independence simultaneously exhilarating and devastating, that will make any reader—new or old—a devoted fan.

The Last Queen: A Novel of Courage and Resistance

William Morrow |
Fiction

She rose from commoner to become the last reigning queen of India’s Sikh Empire. In this dazzling novel, based on true-life events, bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni presents the unforgettable story of Jindan, who transformed herself from daughter of the royal kennel keeper to powerful monarch. 

Sharp-eyed, stubborn, and passionate, Jindan was known for her beauty. When she caught the eye of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, she was elevated to royalty, becoming his youngest and last queen—and his favorite. And when her son, barely six years old, unexpectedly inherited the throne, Jindan assumed the regency. She transformed herself from pampered wife to warrior ruler, determined to protect her people and her son’s birthright from the encroaching British Empire.

Defying tradition, she stepped out of the zenana, cast aside the veil, and conducted state business in public, inspiring her subjects in two wars. Her power and influence were so formidable that the British, fearing an uprising, robbed the rebel queen of everything she had, but nothing crushed her indomitable will.

An exquisite love story of a king and a commoner, a cautionary tale about loyalty and betrayal, a powerful parable of the indestructible bond between mother and child, and an inspiration for our times, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel brings alive one of the most fearless women of the nineteenth century, one whose story cries out to be told.

The Forest of Enchantments

HarperCollins India |
Fiction

The Ramayana, one of the world s greatest epics, is also a tragic love story. In this brilliant retelling, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni places Sita at the centre of the novel: this is Sita s version. The Forest of Enchantments is also a very human story of some of the other women in the epic, often misunderstood and relegated to the margins: Kaikeyi, Surpanakha, Mandodari. A powerful comment on duty, betrayal, infidelity and honour, it is also about women s struggle to retain autonomy in a world that privileges men, as Chitra transforms an ancient story into a gripping, contemporary battle of wills. While the Ramayana resonates even today, she makes it more relevant than ever, in the underlying questions in the novel: How should women be treated by their loved ones? What are their rights in a relationship? When does a woman need to stand up and say, Enough!

Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale

Roaring Brook Press; |
Children’s

Once upon a time, in a little village in India, there lived an old woman. Everyone in the village called her Grandma. One day, Grandma received a letter from her daughter, who lived on the other side of the jungle. “Please come and visit me,” said the letter. “I haven’t seen you in so long. I miss you.”

And so, Grandma begins a perilous journey to the far side of the jungle. Can she use her keen wit to escape the jungle animals and make it safely home?

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s sharp, rhythmic retelling of this Bengali folktale is complimented perfectly by Susy Pilgrim Waters’s brightly colored, captivating illustrations.

Grandma and the Great Gourd is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013

The Conch Bearer (Brotherhood of the Conch)

Aladdin |
Children’s/Middle Grade/YA

In a dingy shack in the less-than-desirable Indian neighborhood he calls home, twelve-year-old Anand is entrusted with a conch shell that possesses mystical powers. His task is to return the shell to its rightful home many hundreds of miles away. Accompanying him are Nisha, a headstrong but resourceful child of the streets, and a mysterious man of indeterminate age and surprising resources named Abadhyatta. His quest will take him farther from home than he’s ever been and will teach him more than he ever imagined — and it will force him to make a poignant decision that will change him forever.

The Power of Our Amazing Stories

This talk, delivered to city-wide and campus-wide audiences as well as large book clubs, focuses on the power of stories to bring together diverse individuals and communities in good times and bad. I discuss my own personal experiences with Hurricane Rita and also volunteering with Hurricane Katrina survivors and how stories helped the individuals I met to deal with their stresses. I discuss the book and the situation (strangers trapped by an earthquake), read a passage, share my own “one amazing thing” and take questions from the audience. A very popular talk/book–over 35 citywide/campuswide reads.

Sheroes: How Women Navigate Challenges and Leadership Issues

This talk, suited to large books clubs, universities (especially colonial studies, international studies, Asian American studies, English Lit, Creative Writing, Women’s Studies), high schools, city-wide events and library events, and food/tradition themed events use my novel The Last Queen and/or my novel Independence.

I discuss colonial rule in India and how India finally overthrew the British and became independent, and how women played a significant role in these national movements–and how these situations are very relevant to USA now.

I discuss how women have a unique way of navigating challenges and relate the historical situations in the books to our everyday lives. Sisterhood–women helping women–is a major theme here.

What We Carry: Traditions, Food, Family Culture

This talk, suited to large books clubs, universities, high schools, city-wide events and library events, and food/tradition themed events, deals with intergenerational relationships and women’s relationships, especially in immigrant communities. I refer to my novel Before We Visit the Goddess, a book that moves from India to USA and spotlights a grandmother, a mother and a daughter. I discuss the characters and situations, intergenerational communication and challenges, women owning their own businesses and how food plays an important part in culture and tradition. I discuss recipes (important in the book) and point the audience to my blog where I have put up recipes from the book.

Our Magical Lives

This talk, based on my award winning middle grades fantasy novel set in India, The Conch Bearer, discusses young heroes and heroines and their adventures. I discuss how and why I wrote this novel, my own children’s responses, and what we can learn from it. I read an exciting passage and point to how courage can be developed and challenges faced successfully. How we can all be the heroes of our own lives.

I also talk about the importance of reading and writing and encourage the audience to pen their own stories.

A very popular talk for schools. (Over 25 schools invited me to talk about this Bluebonnet List book)

Chocolate Sandesh: A dish from my upcoming novel, Before We Visit the Goddess

Chitra’s Upcoming Events

Chitra’s Book Club Link

Chitra’s Blog

Honors, Awards & Recognition

The Last Queen, Won The Times of India Best Fiction Author Award
The Last Queen, Won International Working Women Best Fiction award
The Last Queen, #1 bestseller in India
Mistress of Spices
, National Bestseller
Mistress of Spices, Made into a film by award-winning team of Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges
Arranged Marriage, Winner of American Book Award
Arranged Marriage, Regional Bestseller
Sister of My Heart, National Bestseller
Sister of My Heart, Made into a TV series in India
One Amazing Thing, International Bestseller
One Amazing Thing, Optioned for film
Palace of Illusions, International Bestseller
Palace of Illusions, Optioned for Film and a Play
Independence, Optioned for film, #1 bestseller in India
Economic Times, 2015, lists Divakaruni in their list 20 Most Influential Global Indian Women
Books translated into 30 languages

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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