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Entire Houston area asked to read One Amazing Thing

One Amazing Thing book cover

Professor Chitra Divakaruni’s 2010 novel inaugural selection of regional reading initiative

A citywide book club just wasn’t big enough for the greater Houston area.

The Houston Public Library has combined its Books on the Bayou “one city, one book” reading initiative with similar efforts by the public library systems in Harris, Brazoria, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties to launch a regional version called Gulf Coast Reads: On the Same Page. Other partners include the Houston Independent School District, Inprint, Houston Read Commission, and independent booksellers.

As with other such projects across the nation, Gulf Coast Reads picks one book for communities to read and discuss at libraries throughout the region.

The novel selected to inaugurate the new initiative and bridge diversity divides within the nation’s fourth largest city and her suburban sisters – Bellaire, Sugar Land, The Woodlands – is One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni, the Betty and Gene McDavid Professor of Writing in the Department of English.

Her 16th published work, One Amazing Thing is set in an unnamed American city in the moments before and the time after an earthquake that leaves nine people stranded in a basement passport office. As they experience post-quake disasters and face the possibility of death, the strangers ease the rising panic by each sharing a secret “one amazing thing” that’s happened in his or her life.

The cultural diversity of the characters, the theme of preparation and providence, the respect for storytelling and oral history gives the novel modern Texan sensibilities.

In interviews, Divakaruni has said the novel was inspired by her own family’s experiences stuck in a car on Interstate-10 while trying – with hundreds of thousands of other Houstonians – to get out of the path of Hurricane Rita in 2005.

“I love the thought of my community reading the book together,” Divakaruni told Culture Map Houston. “Really, because the book is about so many people from different backgrounds, different cultural, racial, religious backgrounds that just seems to be so like Houston. That’s what Houston is for me.  It’s such a diverse city, and it’s nice for the communities to come together and I hope my book will do a little bit for that.”

An award-winning poet and novelist, Divakaruni earned her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.  Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies.

Divakaruni teaches in the College’s nationally-recognized Creative Writing Program and is assisting in the development of the new India Studies minor in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies.

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