Readers and critics have lauded the writings of University of Houston professor Chitra Divakaruni. Thanks to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH), literature lovers across the city will have the opportunity to experience her work and its cultural influences.
Author and poet Divakaruni's 2008 book "Palace of Illusions" is among this summer's selections for the MFAH Online Book Club. She is the first UH professor to have a book included in this popular arts and literature program.
"I'm delighted that ‘The Palace of Illusions' has been selected by MFAH for its Online Book Club," Divakaruni said. "It is an excellent idea to pair literature and art."
The MFAH Online Book Club provides existing book clubs and individual readers with discussion topics related to selected texts. It also hosts museum tours focused on artwork connected with the texts.
"The Palace of Illusions" is available for purchase at the MFAH gift shop, and tours will take participants through MFAH's Arts of India gallery in the Caroline Wiess Law building. Book clubs can make tour reservations online at www.mfah.org/bookclub, and individuals can participate in scheduled tours at the following times and dates.
- 6 p.m., July 29
- 1 p.m., Aug. 28
- 6 p.m., Sept. 30
"By happy coincidence, the museum has sculptures and paintings depicting many of the book's characters," she said. "Additionally, the museum has a superb collection of ancient women's jewelry, which plays an important part in some parts of the novel."
"The Palace of Illusions" reinterprets the Indian epic "The Mahabharat" and focuses on heroine Panchaali. A daughter of royalty, she becomes the bride of five brothers, who have been cheated out of their kingdom. She remains by their side as they attempt to reclaim their birthright and engages in a struggle with her mother-in-law for control of the household.
The Los Angeles Times praised "The Palace of Illusions" as "sprawling and bright a gem as the Hope Diamond - a mythic tale brimming with warriors, magic and treachery." Other reviews applauded her efforts to offer new perspectives of classic Indian mythology. The Houston Chronicle commended Divakaruni's "impulse to flesh out the women of ‘The Mahabharat,' which results in a charming and remarkable book."
Houstonians also will have an opportunity to hear from the author, as she is the guest speaker during the Sept. 16 edition of MFAH's "Artful Thursday" series.
Divakaruni has written more than 15 books, and her poetry has been translated into more than 20 languages. Two of her novels, "Mistress of Spices and "Sister of My Heart" have been adapted into films. For more details on Divakaruni, visit http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/.
Divakaruni teaches graduate fiction courses with UH's Creative Writing Program (CWP). As part of UH's English department, the program offers poets, fiction writers and non-fiction writers intensive training in both creative writing and literary studies. It offers two graduate degrees: the Master of Fine Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. In addition to Divakaruni, CWP's noted faculty includes award-winning authors and poets such as novelist Antonya Nelson, poet and non-fiction writer Nick Flynn, graphic novelist Mat Johnson and poet Tony Hoagland. To learn more about the program, visit www.class.uh.edu/cwp/.