Bharati Mukherjee Additional Biography


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Bharati Mukherjee was born to an upper-caste Bengali family and received an English education. The most important event of her life occurred in her early twenties, when she received a scholarship to attend the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop. Her fiction reflects the experimental techniques fostered at such influential creative writing schools.

At the University of Iowa, Mukherjee met Clark Blaise, a Canadian citizen and fellow student. When they moved to Canada she became painfully aware of her status as a nonwhite immigrant in a nation less tolerant of newcomers than the United States. The repeated humiliations she endured made her hypersensitive to the plight of immigrants from the Third World. She realized that immigrants may lose their old identities but not be able to find new identities as often unwelcome strangers.

Mukherjee, relying on her experience growing up, sought her salvation in education. She obtained a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature and moved up the career ladder at various colleges and universities in the East and Midwest until she became a professor at Berkeley in 1989. Her first novel, The Tiger’s Daughter, was published in 1972. In common with all her fiction, it deals with the feelings of exile and identity confusion that are experienced by immigrants. Being female as well as an immigrant, Mukherjee noted that opportunities for women were so different in America that she was exhilarated and bewildered. Many of her best stories, dealing with women experiencing gender crises, have a strong autobiographical element.

Darkness, her first collection of stories, was well reviewed, but not until the publication of The Middleman and Other Stories did she become internationally prominent. Critics have recognized that she is dealing with perhaps the most important contemporary phenomenon, the population explosion and flood of immigrants from have-not nations. Mukherjee makes these newcomers understandable to themselves and to native citizens, while shedding light on the identity problems of all the anonymous, inarticulate immigrants of America’s past.

Her protagonists are not the “huddled masses” of yesteryear; they are talented, multilingual, enterprising, often affluent men and women who are transforming American culture. Mukherjee’s compassion for these newcomers has made her one of the most important writers of her time.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although born in India to parents of a Bengali Brahman (upper-class) caste, Bharati Mukherjee became a citizen of the world early in life. Born in July, 1940, to a father who was a prosperous pharmaceutical chemist and business owner and to a freethinking mother, both of whom wanted education and freedom of action for their daughters, Mukherjee experienced a rather cosmopolitan education. In 1947, after India won its independence from Great Britain, she was enrolled in boarding schools in England and Switzerland, where she perfected her English. Her native Bengali language and customs were marginalized by her educators, and she returned to Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) somewhat a cultural “outsider” to her native India. There she completed her secondary education at Loreto House, taught by Irish nuns.

Mukherjee continued her education, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Calcutta and a master’s degree in both English and ancient Indian culture at the University of Baroda (1961). Subsequently, she was part of the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and began her literary and teaching career, the latter of which included positions at Marquette University in Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, McGill University in Montreal, Columbia University in New York, and the University of California at Berkeley.

It was at the University of Iowa that Mukherjee received both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. In...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bharati Mukherjee (MOO-kehr-jee) has become one of the literary voices whose skillful depictions of the non-European immigrant experience in the United States she credits with “subverting the very notion of what the American novel is and of what American culture is.” Born in Calcutta to an affluent Bengali family, Mukherjee’s life early assumed an international flavor as her father’s pharmaceutical career took the family to England and Switzerland. Fluent in English at an early age, Mukherjee entered an English-language convent school upon her return to Calcutta, which maintained the insularity from the city’s poverty that also characterized her prosperous home life. She received a B.A. in English from the University of...

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(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Mukherjee was born in 1940 into an elite caste level of Calcutta society. A Bengali Brahmin, Mukherjee grew up in a house cluttered with...

(The entire section is 533 words.)


(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Born in Calcutta, India, on July 27, 1940, Muhkerjee is the second of three daughters of a wealthy chemist and his wife. In 1947, the year...

(The entire section is 370 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Bharati Mukherjee Published by Gale Cengage

American novelist and short-story writer Bharati Mukherjee was born on July 27, 1940, in Calcutta, West Bengal, India, to wealthy parents,...

(The entire section is 579 words.)