Author and poet to give UHV commencement keynote address

Award-winning author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, whose book “The Mistress of Spices” was made into a movie in 2005, will give the keynote address May 14 during the University of Houston-Victoria’s two spring commencement ceremonies.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

“We are honored to have one of the outstanding authors in women’s literature as our commencement speaker,” UHV Interim President Don Smith said. “Those who heard her speak at UHV in 2007 as part of the American Book Review Spring Reading Series know that her insightful comments will help guide our graduates as they look ahead to their future.”

Divakaruni is an author and poet who teaches in the nationally ranked creative writing program at the University of Houston, where she is the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Writing. Her pieces have been published in more than 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and in more than 50 anthologies. Her work has been translated into 20 languages.

Her first book of short stories, “Arranged Marriage,” won critical acclaim and a 1996 American Book Award. Her 1997 novel, “The Mistress of Spices,” followed Tilo, a magical figure who runs a grocery store and uses spices to help customers overcome difficulties. The book was turned into a film by Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges, the same team that created the successful movie “Bend it Like Beckham.”

Divakaruni was born in India and lived there until 1976, at which point she left Calcutta and came to the U.S. She has a master’s degree in English from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

Her most recent book, 2010’s “One Amazing Thing,” focuses on nine people trapped in an office after an earthquake. Each person tells an amazing tale from his life that he has never told anyone before.

Divakaruni said she is looking forward to coming back to UHV to speak at the commencement ceremonies.

“I am planning on sharing incidents from my life that have inspired me to balance success with giving back to society,” she said. “My hope is that these stories will help the new graduates as they go out into this rapidly changing, global world we all live in,” she said.

For the first time, UHV is planning to hold two graduation ceremonies in Victoria in order to accommodate the university’s growth. Both will take place in Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane. The 9 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the schools of Business Administration and Education & Human Development. The 1 p.m. ceremony will be for the schools of Arts & Sciences and Nursing.

For more information about UHV commencement, contact special events coordinator Nancy Gresham at 361-570-4351 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paula Cobler