Chitra Divakaruni Presents the Eckler/Wolf Lecture at Mount Union College

April 05, 2010

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, acclaimed novelist and poet, presented the Eckler /Wolf lecture at Mount Union College yesterday evening in the Dewald Chapel.

Divakaruni's writings transcend cultural boundaries. Her works provide the reader with a lens to look at the world through the eyes of others, showing how people may come from different places, but all want the same things out of life.

Opening by discussing her book, The Mistress of Spices, she shared how a near death experience led her to write about life and death, but that the experience was so traumatic for her that she found she had to fictionalize it.

'A character came to me in my imagination.' said Divakaruni. 'She was a woman in a grocery, had a life somewhere else and she was magical. That was all I knew and I started writing.' The Mistress of Spices is set in an Indian grocery and the protagonist Tilo has a special power. When someone enters the grocery, Tilo knows exactly what they need and gives them spices to get it. Divakaruni then read a passage from her book.

She also discussed arranged marriages and how it is still the norm in India for arranged marriages to take place. She then read an excerpt from a short story in The Unknown Errors of Our Lives that focuses on this practice and the issues it raises.

Closing with the reading of a poem, she then took questions from the audience and stayed for a book signing and reception.

Divakaruni's works have been published in over 50 magazines and included in over 30 anthologies. Her works have been translated into 11 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew and Japanese. Divakaruni serves on the board of Maitri in the Bay and on the Advisory Board of Asians against Domestic Abuse in Houston. Also, in 2000 she was one of the judges for the prestigious National Book Award. Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart have been optioned by filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Suhasini for films and TV serials, respectively.

Mount Union College established the Mary W. and Eric A. Eckler Endowment in Literature and Drama in 1981 through a trust given by the late Mr. and Mrs. John A. Cummins. Both Dr. and Mrs. Eckler were long-time faculty members in Mount Union's Department of English.

The Eleanor Mincks Wolf Lecture was established by John L. Wolf of Medina, Ohio in memory of his wife Eleanor. A 1939 graduate of Mount Union College, she was a former teacher of English and Latin in Richfield and Highland school districts. This lecture features a professional in the English field.

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