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Chitra Divakaruni Pens Her Sixth book
By Nitish Rele

Add yet another feather in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's cap. The award-winning author and poet is out with her sixth novel, "Queen of Dreams" (Doubleday, $21.95, Pages 352), which tells the story of Rakhi, an artist and divorced mother living in Berkeley, California. When her mother, an interpreter of dreams, passes away, Rahki must confront a forgotten past and an increasingly complex life in post 9-11 America.

Caught beneath the burden of her own painful secret, Rakhi's solace comes in the discovery, after her mother's death, of her dream journals, which begin to open the long-closed door to her past. A shadowy man in white who appears at pivotal moments, a sinister rival and entries from her mother's journals punctuate this cleverly imagined tale of love, forgiveness and new beginnings.

A few weeks before the release of the book in mid-September, Divakaruni spoke with Khaas Baat. "I have been excited about the book," said Divakaruni during the interview. "It's very different unlike my previous novels. It's a book of three generations of Indian Americans. It's very important because as our community gets older, we have to deal with several issues. The September 11 attacks and its effect on our community did inspire me to write it. Definitely, it's more of a political novel than the others I have written so far. And it also is magical since it brings in a dream interpreter."

Soon, she will be starting a book tour to promote "Queen of Dreams," which is difficult for her to do. "I have to leave my family," she justified. She has two boys, 10 and 12. Her husband works in technology and management. "But I understand the importance of book tours."

Next on her agenda is a children's book, part two of "The Conch Bearer," where young Anand is entrusted with a powerful conch shell, which he must restore to its rightful home high in the mountains. "I already have begun working to develop Anand's character further," she revealed.

Divakaruni is excited about her novel "The Mistress of Spices," which will be made into an English film by "Bend it like Beckham" director Gurinder Chadha. Already, "Sister of My Heart" was made into a Tamil TV serial by Suhasini Mani Ratnam. She also has written another children's book "Neela: Victory Song," and two other books "Vine of Desire" and "The Unknown Errors of Our Lives."

Born in India, Divakaruni lived there until 1976, until she was 19, at which point she left Calcutta and came to the United States. She continued her education in the field of English by receiving a Master's degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

To earn money for her education, she held many odd jobs, including babysitting, selling merchandise in an Indian boutique, slicing bread in a bakery, and washing instruments in a science lab. At Berkeley, she lived in the International House and worked in the dining hall. She briefly lived in Illinois, Ohio and Texas, but has spent most of her life in Northern California, which she often writes about.

Divakaruni teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program area at the University of Houston and divides her time between Houston and Northern California. She serves on the board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay area and on the Advisory Board of Asians against Domestic Abuse in Houston. In the past, she was one of the judges for the prestigious National Book Award.

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