Responding with Hope to 9/11: A Talk with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni About Her Latest Novel, Queen of Dreams
Three years after the tragic events of 9/11, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni remains haunted not only by the vivid images of what happened, but also by the repercussions felt throughout the country, especially in the South Asian American community. Indeed, in a report released by the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium six months after the attacks, aptly titled “Backlash: When America Turned on Its Own,” the APA community witnessed a sudden spike in anti-Asian violence, especially against those of South Asian descent. Resembling the enemy literally became a threat to one’s life.
Divakaruni, author of such best-selling books as The Mistress of Spices and Arranged Marriage, uses her latest novel, the magical Queen of Dreams, to capture some of her confusion, fear, and sadness surrounding the events. Ultimately, though, the novel underscores human resilience through the power of hope and forgiveness. Queen is the story of a South Asian American artist in Berkeley who tries to come to terms with the people closest to her heart: her elusive dream-teller mother, her silent father, her growing daughter, and her enigmatic ex-husband. Divakaruni admits it’s her favorite of her own novels thus far.
“I want to touch people, to have them think about issues they haven’t considered before, to make them more compassionate towards other people,” she says. “That was my major intention with writing this book after 9/11: If I could make the pain and the hope powerful enough in the book, then maybe I might stop some of the prejudice out there, and have some sort of countereffect to what followed 9/11.” Divakaruni drew on her own experiences of being “other,” even as she has been in America for almost three decades: “I find that when I really care about a character from a particular background, when I look at those people in my own real life, then I feel differently about them. I feel more compassionate. And that’s my hope for Queen and for my community.” …[click here for more]