John Thoggungal
Parth Parikh

Award winning author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni took center stage on Oct. 9 at the Jonsson Performance hall to read excerpts from her latest book Oleander Girl.

She talked about her books and why she chose to write about stories that focus on the experience of immigrants who come from India.


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“I think it is possible for students to go on many routes to become a good writer,” she said.

Divakaruni has won numerous awards for many of her books including the American Book Award, Bay Area Book Reviewers award and PEN Josephine Miles award for her short story collection Arranged Marriage.

Another of her books, Mistress of Spice, was made into a movie of the same name featuring Dylan McDermott and Indian actress Aishwariya Rai in addition to being on several best seller lists.

“She is a born story teller,” said Dennis Kratz, Dean of Arts & Humanities.

He fondly recalled the story of when they met earlier on in the year at the Richardson Public Library. The library honored her book <em>One Amazing Thing by placing it on the Richardson Reads 2012 list.

She read an excerpt from the first chapter of her new book and opened the stage to questions from the audience, which included members from the public, faculty and students. The audience responded with questions dealing with a wide range of topics. Most of the questions asked dealt with the topic of the writing process from hopeful authors in the audience.

A traditionally brought up orphan, Korobi, the book’s main protagonist finds herself seeing visions of her dead mother the night before her engagement to Rajat her fiancé from a nouveau-riche family. The story is set in the bustling city of Kolkata caught between the ever-changing landscapes of India due to increased financial stability.

“Every time I go back to India, I notice how fast it is changing it has changed and yet some things never change,” Divakaruni said. “I wanted to write a story about this change, the mix of the new and the old.”

Divakaruni talked about her own fascination with Indian classics and the mythological archetype in response to a question from Kratz relating to Boccaio’s Decameron and the importance of knowing classics.

Her books feature strong female characters caught in the immigrant experience and its journey. It is important to write about this experience as they serve as a reminder and inspiration to the many generations yet to make the move, she said.

She smiled as she recounted the admiration she had for Rabindranath Tagore, her favorite author who wrote about women’s issues in the early 1900s.

She answered questions for a good part of the hour without divulging the life-changing secret that the book’s protagonist Korobi finds out.

Divakaruni currently teaches creative writing at the University of Houston. When asked about the changing face of immigrants from India, she noted that she was proud of the fact that there was much more involvement in politics from the community. She is passionate about the role of women in particular in the immigrant experience and the stories that result from the move.