Wednesday, April 02, 2014

C is for Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Born 1956

After two days of delving in the past I fast forward to current times and pick a modern day favourite, an Indian American this time and a lady yet again.. I really hadn’t realised I preferred women writers with women protagonists.

Today it is Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni the author of the award winning The Mistress of Spices. She has authored over a dozen books including novels and short stories as well as some poetry. Her subjects are often Indian American immigrants. Her books include Arranged Marriage (short stories), Sister of My Heart, The Vine of Desire and Oleander Girl among others.


India to America

She was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and after finishing her graduation she moved to the United States. It wouldn’t have been easy for her there and she took up various small jobs to put herself through college - ‘menial and minimum wages’ is what she terms them. However had she not moved, she just might not have become a writer at all

On being a writer

In her blog she says, “In India, growing up in a traditional family, I had never considered being a writer.” In America she came across other immigrants like her. She identified with their struggles, struggles to fit into this new country yet to keep their values intact at some level. And that’s where she started weaving her stories and her first book ‘Arranged Marriage’ was born. Some of her stories have a nagging melancholy, I don't particularly are for, but they do paint a vivid picture of immigrants.

My favourites

I love the quaint mix of India and America she serves up in her novels. I enjoyed The Mistress of Spices. That mix of magic and exotica coupled with human longings and failings made for a compelling read.

However my absolute all time favourite is the one novel that doesn't talk of immigrants. It is The Palace of Illusions -  a retelling of the Mahabharat, from a woman’s perspective. Banerjee simplifies the epic once more talking of human failings and human relationships.

Her protagonist Draupadi is a princess 'born to destroy', the 'ill-fated' one. Yet how strong she is - a woman who refused to take the name Draupadi (from her father’s name Drupad) and preferred to call herself Panchali (after the kingdom of Panchal, where she was born). That must have been quite a rarity in those days when women spent their lives in the shadow of their fathers, brothers, husbands or sons. Forced to marry five men instead of the one she truly loved she strives to be a good wife to each. I loved her special relationship with Krishna too - his cool responses to her heated ones. She is passionate and outspoken, rash and vengeful too. Yet you cannot but fall in love with Banerjee's Panchali.

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PS: I have to add just a tiny bit about my other favourite ‘C’ author – the lady from Nigeria Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Interestingly her latest novel Americanah also deals with the issue of immigrants to America. Talk about connecting across continents!
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This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, 2014 for the theme AMAZING AUTHORS.



Also linking to the Ultimate Blog Challenge.




61 comments:

  1. I absolutely loved Palace of Illusions but haven't read any of her other works! Brilliant entry for C!

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    1. She paints a very real picture Aditi.. Do give her short stories a try.

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  2. A friend of mine gifted me "Palace of Illusions" and said, "Read it, your writing style and thinking style would be enhanced. Tu ek dum firangi hai, read her and you will know how good desi writers are". I nodded and never touched the book as I already have 231 books in the to be read list. Now your write up about her makes me curious. I should start reading it soon!

    ~Smile, it makes (y)our day!
    S(t)ri
    Participant|AtoZ Challenge 2014

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  3. I have this book and I am yet to read it. Just read Ajaya and I think this will be the best time to read Draupadi's version of the book.

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  4. Glad that you are introducing good authors through this theme Tulika.. From long time, Palace of Illusions was on my wishlist.. another motivator to order it soon :) nice writeup!

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  5. I read my first Divakaruni when it was gifted to me by my sister. And since it came from an avid reader like she, I knew I would love it and I did too. The book was Oleander Girl.

    Ishithaa
    #AtoZChallenge

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  6. Yay! my guess was correct!!
    Loved reading Palace of Illusions! have not picked up any other as yet.. will add Mistress of Spices to the list :)

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  7. I have never read her....It was interesting to know about her here...I love your theme for this very reason :)

    Random Thoughts Naba

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    1. Thanks Nabanita. I hope you'll sample her and decide for yourself whether you like her or not.

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  8. I've got the copies of The Mistress and the Palace back at home in India. I must get them soon. Thanks for the nice review ! :)

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    1. You are welcome Sreeja.. do get those books.

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  9. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are my favourite epics of all time. Palace of Illusions swiftly downloaded to my ipad kindle. Thanks for introducing her. I hadn't heard of her before.

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    1. The Ramayana was relatively a simple take but the Mahabharata is full of twists and turns and plots and subplots, the confusion between right and wrong... It's an amazing piece of work.

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  10. I have to read the Palace of Illusions now...beautiful post about a wonderful writer. I think I will save all your posts and make a ebook of amazing writers. May I? :)

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    1. Wow ... That would be so sweet, Sulekha. Of course you may. And now I am ll puffed up with a happy feeling. Thank you.

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  11. Tulika, great post :) I've only read Mistress of spices and loved it.

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    1. You must try Palace.. It's completely different but wonderfully written, specially if you like Indian mythology.

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  12. This CB sounds fabulous :D Should get a book or two.

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  13. Never got a chance to read her... tried to buy this one last time... but bad luck... it was not available then, there..

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    1. Aww.. I'm sure you'll find it soon enough.

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  14. Would love to read this....
    Going to grab my Copy

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    1. Do share whether you liked it Sitara.

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  15. I still have Palace of Illusions on my bookshelf to be read...really need to get to it. Keep hearing good things. :)

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  16. I have never gotten the chance to read her. I don't think her books are available here in the US. I will have to research it. The books sound good! ♥

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    1. If you do find her you might like to try the others - the ones on Migrants - that is actually her forte. I love Palace of Illusions because I love mythology.

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  17. Oh, I am such a poor reader! Whenever I read posts like this one I long to be addicted to books!
    Btw, I am from Lucknow too; rarely see anyone here from the City of Nawabs... so this was a pleasant surprise :)

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    1. Wow.. you too!! I'm coming this month. We must do a Lucknow blogger meet.

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    2. Now I live in Bahrain. My mommy and daddy live there though :)

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  18. I never knew that Palace of Illusions was written by her, although I have heard a good deal about the book! Your posts are getting to be quite educational on the subject of authors. I need to read her soon. Great write-up, Tulika!

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    1. Shailaja you're one person I'm SURE will enjoy the book. Do read it.

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  19. I am going straight to amazon to get an ebook of her. How could I have not read her!!

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  20. I'm embarrassed to say I have read a single book of hers. Soon to be rectified! Thanks for this, Tulika!

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    1. Like I said before it's really never too late to pick up a good book... there's so much to read out there. I'd love to hear from you after you read some of her.

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  22. Yes have been hearing about her a lot. And perhaps one of these days might pick up a book two..

    Richa

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    1. That happens sometimes.. a book pops up in a number of conversations and then you feel you just have to get it. Go for it Richa.

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  23. I read her because of my academic interest in the whole Indian-American experience during my NRI days in the US. I found it a mix bag - some of the stories in Arranged Marriage were interesting, but there was also a big dose of stereotype which I found a little difficult to digest at times. Among the Indian-American women authors I found Anita Desai and Jhumpa Lahiri better. Perhaps these two might be coming up in your list too! Oops, if that is so ;)

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    1. Both not there Beloo.. sorry. You're right about the stereotyping in her books. My favourites are the different ones. You might like the two that are my favourites, if you haven't read them already.

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  24. I love stories about and of people moving to and from different places- the whole perspective thing...:-) Will add her books to my reading list . they sound great:-) Thanks for the tip:-)

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  25. Thanks for the introduction. This author sounds interesting. :)

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  26. I enjoyed reading Palace of illusions. Haven't read any of her other books, although Mistress of spices has been on the agenda for a while now.

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  27. I love her Mistress of Spices and Palace of Illusions and her writeups whenever she writes them .. same pinch :) Tulika

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  28. I have seen the movie , I guess now i will have to grab her books.
    Good One!
    Health and Happiness always.
    http://inderpreetkaur.blogspot.in/2014/04/color-not-kind-i-like.html

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  29. I picked up 'Arranged Marriage' when I was at the airport ready to be an immigrant myself. I didn't relate to it at all at that point but now I slowly understand and totally agree to the writer. Not the marriage part but the immigrant part.

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    1. I guess if one is an immigrant herself the stories would hold more meaning.

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  30. i want to read 'the palace of illusions' ... it sounds similar to 'Yajyanseni'- the odia novel by Pratibha Ray...of the similar subject...and i love epics..especially Mahabharata..

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    1. Then this one is for you Pratikshya.

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  31. She packs mystic in her writings.. I loved her mistress of spices.

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