Bharati Mukherjee (1940 - 2017)


Indian-born writer Bharati Mukherjee died on January 28, 2017. The author of acclaimed short stories and novels, including Desirable Daughters (2002) and Jasmine (1989), she came to the United States in 1961 to study creative writing at the University of Iowa. Defying her conservative, Brahmin parents’ expectations that she return to India to make an arranged marriage, she instead wed fellow-student Clark Blaise. The act of marrying outside her caste “suddenly changed me into a transient with conflicting loyalties to two very different cultures,” she wrote in Mother Jones in 1997.

The couple settled in North America, and Mukherjee published her first novel, Tiger’s Daughter, in 1971. A later work, The Middleman and Other Stories (1988) won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In the course of a prolific career, she taught at several universities, lastly at the University of California Berkeley. Mukherjee felt herself to be an American writer, but she returned again and again to the immigrant experience. Her method, she once wrote, “was to make the familiar exotic… and make the exotic… familiar.”


Photo by Chip Cooper

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Comments (3)

What a fantastic and brave woman. Did she have any children? I can only imagine how hard it must have been for her to go against her Indian customs and stay in the U.S. and marry outside her caste but something truly was more important and that must have been her inner voice to write and put her thoughts down on paper so others could enjoy them. I'll have to find her works and read them. My sympathies to her family and may her next journey be as interesting as her earthly one.

Posted by: Annabelle Havlicek | Thursday February 2, 2017 at 5:35 PM

This writing made me interested to read her works. Thank you Sarah for the wonderful summary and including the quote in the last line. It somehow is enchanting!

Posted by: Satabdi | Friday February 3, 2017 at 9:08 AM

oh my gosh! i am so sorry to hear this. i met bharati for the first time in the 80s. she and her husband were great friends and supporters of mine when i was a twenty-something writer finding my way in nyc. what a loss!

Posted by: Ameena | Friday February 3, 2017 at 1:32 PM

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