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9/11 & Chitra Divakurni's book

September 29, 2004 14:56 IST

Rakhi, a divorced mother, is struggling to understand her deceased mother's dream journals.

Meanwhile, her own dreams are shattered as she and her Indian friends are branded terrorists after 9/11.

In her newest novel, Queen of Dreams, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is always conscious of the backlash to 9/11.

"I was planning for some time to write a book that focuses on the Indian way of dream-interpretation," she says, "but after 9/11 and the backlash against our community, especially our Sikh brothers, I knew I had to bring that into my book."

She felt she had to depict and explore how Indian Americans felt at that time.

"There was so much sorrow at what had happened, and then, on top of that, so much additional sorrow and fear because we were being blamed and attacked for what the terrorists had done. All this plays an important role in the book."

The author of The Mistress of Spices -- which Gurinder Chadha's husband Paul Mayeda Berges is making into a film starring Aishwarya Rai -- says, "I hope I have managed to bring together ancient myths and current history, and also explore how reality has many facets to it."

She thinks it is a more "mysterious book than my others. There are many unanswered questions for the reader to think about after he or she has finished the book. It is also the first book in which three generations of a family all play important roles.

"This is my first book where the main character is a second generation Indian American.

"It's the first book where a father-daughter relationship is so central. It is also my first book where the growing desi club/music scene is a significant element."

Divakaruni, a literature professor in Houston, maintains a home near San Francisco with her husband and two boys.

She says she had to do some "serious clubbing" to gather material for the book.

"Often, I have to confess, I was the oldest and most un-hip person around and people looked at me quite suspiciously."

The book also asks questions such as "what is lost, what is gained, as we live in Diaspora," she says. "Can trust be regained once it is lost? How can we learn to forgive? And ultimately, what is real?"

"Gurinder Chadha is in the final stages of firming up the contracts with me and with the actors," Divakaruni says aboutThe Mistress of Spices being made into a film. "She hopes to start shooting as soon as the paperwork is cleared. I'm very excited. But I've chosen only to be an informal consultant. Film is not my specialty, and I trust Gurinder and Paul's vision."

Asked about her next book, she says, "I am writing Part 2 of The Conch Bearer, the magical children's adventure that came out last year. It will involve the same characters, but different challenges. There will be a magical mirror, time travel back to the time of the Mughals, an evil sorcerer, lots of fun adventures!"

Divakaruni has already had a book reading in nearly a dozen cities. She will still have to visit many more, including New York, to promote the novel.

Asked what questions does she expects, she says, "I am always surprised by questions, and never really prepared. Possibly people will ask how I became interested in dreams (I have some great family stories about that!), what kind of research I did (I went to India and also read a number of Bengali books on dream interpretation) and why I decided to write about 9/11."

Here is the schedule for Chitra Divakaruni's readings in the US:
La Jolla/California
October 6
Words Alive Luncheon
11 am

Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines
10950 N Torrey Pines Rd.
La Jolla, CA 92037

Warwick's
7:30 pm
7812 Girard Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037

Los Angeles
October 13
Library Foundation of LA/ALOUD
7:30pm
Mark Taper Auditorium
Central Library
630 W. 5th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071

New York
September 30,
South Asian Journalist Association & Indo-American Arts Council
6:30 pm
Maharaja Restaurant
230 E 44th, between 2nd & 3rd
New York, NY

Torrance / California
October 14
[Time unknown]
Borders Torrance
3700 Torrance Blvd
Torrance, CA 90503

Arthur J Pais in New York