Biography of Bharati Mukherjee

Bharati Mukherjee was born in Calcutta to father Sudhir Lal Mukherjee, a chemist and businessman, and mother Bina Banerjee. In Calcutta, Mukherjee attended an English-style school and lived on her father's compound with over fifty members of their extended family. When Mukherjee was eight years old, her father moved the nuclear family to London and Basel for three years. Upon returning to Calcutta, Mukherjee attended a Roman Catholic school run by Irish nuns. Since her early childhood, she wrote stories and read voraciously. She attended undergraduate school at the University of Calcutta, earned a master's degree from the University of Baroda, and in 1961, after submitting a packet of handwritten stories to University of Iowa, was admitted to their MFA program for creative writing where she studied with other towering writers like Philip Roth and Vance Bourjaily. At the time, University of Iowa was the only program in the world to offer an MFA in creative writing. In an interview with Drexel University, Mukherjee recalled the reason she was allowed to leave India and study creative writing was because an arts degree was considered an "unthreatening" degree for her to earn while her father sought her a suitable groom.

Mukherjee rejects the label of "postcolonial" for her writing, saying, "I don't think of myself as a postcolonial person stranded on the outer shores of the collapsed British Empire. ... If I had chosen to return to India after writing that book in 1977, or if, like Salman Rushdie, I'd spent my entire adult life in Britain instead of in North America, I might have evolved as a postcolonial whose creative imagination is fueled primarily by the desire to create a new mythology of Indian nationhood after the Raj's brutalization of Indian culture. But I didn't." Of her writing, Mukherjee says she is more interested in rendering a national mythology of the post-Vietnam United States. "I experience," she says, "simultaneously, the pioneer's capacity to be shocked and surprised by the new culture, and the immigrant's willingness to de-form and re-form that culture."

Over the course of her prolific career, Mukherjee wrote eight novels, four short story collections, three works of non-fiction, and co-authored a memoir with her husband Clark Blaise. She was a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1988 and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Whittier College in 2013.

Study Guides on Works by Bharati Mukherjee

Published in September of 1989, Bharati Mukherjee's third novel, Jasmine, tells the story of its eponymous protagonist's journey from the small village of Hasnapur, India to Jalandhar, to Florida, to New York, and eventually to Iowa, inhabiting a...