Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Discusses Her Latest Book “The Last Queen” and “The Palace of Illusions,” and Love and Friendship on Chai With Manju

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BOSTON—Indian-American writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, who wrote the famed “The Palace of Illusions” as a memoir by Draupadi, the famous Mahabharata character who had married five brothers—all at the same time, says her most favorite book is her latest novel—The Last Queen—which she wrote during the COVID pandemic. It is based on the life and adventures of Queen Jindan.

An exquisite love story of a king and a commoner, a cautionary tale about loyalty and betrayal, and a powerful parable of the indestructible bond between mother and child, Ms. Divakaruni’s latest novel brings alive one of the most fearless women of the nineteenth century, according to her website.

In an exclusive video interview on Chai With Manju, Ms. Divakaruni talks about writing a book during COVID times, about motherhood, her favorite characters, love, friendship, and her next dream and project. She ends the interview with her favorite poem.

To watch the full interview, please click here, or on the image below.

Ms. Divakaruni’s last novel, The Forest of Enchantments, is based on the Indian epic The Ramayan, which she re-tells from the point of the main female character, Sita.

In addition to being an award-winning and bestselling author, Ms. Divakaruni is a poet, activist and teacher of writing. Her 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 books have been translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Bengali, Russian and Japanese, and many of them have been used for campus-wide and city-wide reads. Several of her works have been made into films and plays, according to her official bio.

She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy and has two sons, Anand and Abhay. She loves to connect with readers on her Facebook page and on Twitter (@cdivakaruni).

Born in Kolkata, India, Ms. Divakaruni came to the United States for her graduate studies, receiving a Master’s degree in English from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ms. Divakaruni teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the University of Houston, where she is the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Creative Writing. She serves on the Advisory board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay Area and Daya in Houston. Both are organizations that help South Asian or South Asian American women who find themselves in abusive or domestic violence situations. She served on the board of Pratham, an organization that helps educate underprivileged children in India, for many years and is currently on their emeritus board.

Ms. Divakaruni has judged several prestigious awards, such as the National Book Award and the PEN Faulkner Award. She is, herself, the winner of a number of awards, including the American Book Award.

Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies by filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges (an English film) and Suhasini Mani Ratnam (a Tamil TV serial) respectively. A short story, “The Word Love,” from her collection Arranged Marriage, was made into a bilingual short film in Bengali and English, titled Ammar Ma.



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