Reading guide for Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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Queen of Dreams

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Queen of Dreams
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2004, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2005, 352 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

"A dream is a telegram from the hidden world." So writes the matriarch of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's mesmerizing Queen of Dreams. A novel that unites mystical, unseen worlds with the all-too-real dilemmas of modern life, this is the story of Rakhi's family–three generations with shared hopes and distinct memories. Rakhi is a single mother living in Berkeley, California, where she struggles to keep a teahouse in business while nurturing her career as an artist. Her mother is a dreamteller, born with the ability to experience and interpret the dreams of others. This double-edged gift allows her to preview fate, but isolates her from her daughter and husband. It is only through a painful, bewildering turn of events that Rakhi is at last able to know the truth about her mother's life in India, and her family's destiny in America.

Woven with the evocative, elegant storytelling that has made Divakaruni such an acclaimed literary treasure, Queen of Dreams provides numerous topics for further consideration. This is a tale from which you may be reluctant to awaken; we hope this guide will enhance your enjoyment of it.


Reading Guide
  1. Compare Rakhi's parenting style to that of her mother's. To what do you attribute these differences? What universal wisdom about mothers and daughters does the novel convey?

  2. Discuss the role of the snake and its presence in the life of Rakhi's mother. Does it provide enlightenment, or is it merely a messenger? Do you view it as an ominous or wise presence in her life?

  3. What transformations occur in Rakhi after her mother's death? How do her attitudes toward Sonny and her father change? What obstacles prevented her from trusting them previously?

  4. How do you perceive Jona's visionary gifts? As a twenty-first century Californian, will she experience dreamtelling benefits not afforded to her grandmother, or do you predict that Jona's intuitive legacy will be diminished by contemporary Western culture?

  5. Chapter 21 describes the process by which Mrs. Gupta was trained in her arts, and the many sacrifices (emotional as well as material) presented by life as a dreamteller. What analogies does her experience offer about the nature of all vocational choices? Does the modern world encourage us to discern and nurture our true talents?

  6. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni presents a variety of points of view in Queen of Dreams. How does Rakhi's storytelling voice compare to the one presented in her mother's journals? What is the effect of occasional chapters in third-person narration?

  7. What is meant by being a "queen of dreams?" What are the duties and powers of this position? Who are her subjects? How would you characterize her kingdom?

  8. Consider the lessons presented in chapter 11. What results do you derive from applying them to your own dreams? What is your personal understanding of the purpose and origin of dreams, especially in response to the portions of Samyukta's speech recalled in the closing paragraphs of chapter 27? How do the various otherworldly images presented in the novel illustrate the essence of the primary characters?

  9. How did your perception of Rakhi change throughout the book? Did you initially see her as a pessimist or a realist, or neither?

  10. In what way do Jespal and Belle serve as a backdrop for the paradoxes of love and companionship presented elsewhere in the novel?

  11. Do the questions presented at the end of chapter 18 parallel your approach to literature in any way?

  12. Discuss the novel's portrayal of 9/11 and the impact of terrorism on Rakhi's community. What microcosm of America is embodied in Kurma House International? What safe havens or coping strategies did you seek during the autumn of 2001?

  13. What is your understanding of the mysterious black car and Rakhi's silent patron? What is the significance of her asana lesson?

  14. The childhood memories of Rakhi's father indicate the true depth of his unrealized talent, at last brought to life when he joins her business. What was the impetus for his decision to cook once again, despite his pragmatic persona? What do you make of his desire to establish an honor system for payment, and the belief that gratitude does not need to be articulated? Do you believe that on some level he was able to "banish" Rakhi's ominous competitor?

  15. Consider the second definition of dreams–those related not to sleep, but to aspiration. What hopes and wishes are presented in Queen of Dreams? What ultimately determined whether those dreams came to fruition?

  16. Reread the first chapter again, exploring it in the context of the novel's ending. How does Mrs. Gupta approach her own death? Would you be able to receive such predictions as calmly? What enabled Rakhi to at last experience bliss, even in the wake of tragedy?

  17. Are premonitions beneficial?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Anchor Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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