GVFaces: Oindrila Mukherjee

February 21, 2023 (Volume 46, Number 12)
Article by Clemence Daniere

Oindrila Mukherjee speak at a podium, people in audience in black tie and formal wear

Oindrila Mukherjee, associate professor of writing, reads from her book at the Inprint Poet and Writers Ball in Houston, Texas.

Photo Credit: courtesy photo

Oindrila Mukherjee's new book “The Dream Builders” draws inspiration from Michigan and Indian culture, rapidly expanding globalization, community and more, culminating in a novel critics said is bound to become an international sensation. 

As a child, Mukherjee was fascinated by books and described herself as a “voracious reader” of anything from reality-based books about young girls growing up in the West to stories of Indian mythology and fairy tales from around the world.

Mukherjee, associate professor of writing, spent most of her life traveling and moving to new places. She said her time in Michigan has been the longest she’s lived anywhere outside of her hometown of Kolkata, India.

Mukherjee completed the book during the pandemic. She said she was driven by Michigan’s abundance and the inspiration of nature around her. 

“To me, Michigan is so unique. It has shaped me. I grew up in the tropics and even when I came to America, I spent the first nine years in the South and I only got to see snow when I moved here,” said Mukherjee. 

“While the novel is set in a fictional Indian city, American influence looms large over it. And the Midwest is a part of the book, too, as one of the characters, Maneka Roy, lives and teaches in a fictional Midwestern college town that everyone she meets in India is very curious about. It is a lot smaller and less urban than Grand Rapids, but my life in West Michigan was certainly an important influence on these sections.”

As a part of her sabbatical in 2018, Mukherjee traveled to India and reconnected with her roots, while drawing inspiration for her debut novel. She was awarded two Catalyst Grants for Research and Creativity from the Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence.

For six months, she talked to the Indian people living around her — cab drivers, spa facialists, start-up owners and more — and drew inspiration from them for the characters in her book. 

Themes are threaded through the story: globalization, class divisions and infrastructural development, which have been areas of interest in Mukherjee’s life for a long time. She said this novel allowed them to culminate and come to fruition. 

“If you love language and using words as I do, you start to want to tell stories and use language to express yourself,” said Mukherjee, “I love fiction. That’s my first love.”

Mukherjee teaches a variety of classes, including Magazine Writing, various fiction workshops, and Introduction to Creative Writing. 

The Dream Builders is published by Tin House Books in the U.S. Scribe Publications will release the title on February 28 in Australia and July 13 in the United Kingdom. 

 

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This article was last edited on February 21, 2023 at 10:0 a.m.

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