Chitra Divakaruni, author of Auburn University's 2018-2019 Common Book, "One Amazing Thing," visited Auburn to speak about the book and everything that went into it.
“I know the very moment when the idea for this book came to me,” Divakaruni said. “This book is the brain child of not one but two hurricanes.”
Divakaruni lives in Houston, and when Hurricane Rita was descending on Houston, the city authorities called for an evacuation. The freeway was crowded, and traffic stopped entirely. Tension was palpable and fights were breaking out on the freeway when Divakaruni noticed that, in the midst of the fear and anger, some people were acting differently, calming people down and sharing their water with children and the elderly.
“They were trying to make the situation better, and they were walking up to strangers and just trying to help,” Divakaruni saiad. “As I watched them, the righter part of my brain clicked on, and I thought, 'What is it that allows these people to do this?'”
She wanted to understand these people and their ability to look outside their own interests and help others in the midst of a crisis.
“I said, 'That really interests me, and if Hurricane Rita doesn’t come down this way and wipe us all off the face of the Earth, oh, universe, I promise I will write a book about this,'” Divakaruni said. “So I think the universe heard, and Hurricane Rita, in fact, went elsewhere and spared Houston, and then I was like, ‘OK, now I have to write this book because I live in Houston, another hurricane might come if I don’t write this book.'”
Later, she helped survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which helped her to develop her knowledge of these type of people. She realized that the people were able to act in this special way because they saw all of the travelers as a community, instead of being in competition with each other. Diverse people in a difficult situations coming together became the theme of her book.
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“Stories bring people together like almost nothing else can,” Divakaruni said.
So, she decided that her book would center around people telling stories to each other. The characters in her book become trapped together in a life-threatening situation, and one of them suggests that they each tell one amazing thing from their life.
“I think telling each other’s stories and having people listen to them creates such a wonderful, rich community,” Divakaruni said. “Our stories show us at once how we are all wonderful, different, unique, original human beings, and they show us that we share a common core of humanity.”
“We’re excited by the community turn-out and looking forward to the rest of the slated events that we have got, including tomorrow’s big mosaic performance,” said Emily Friedman, associate professor in the English department. “We are eager to hear from students who think they know what the next Common Book is going to be.”
“I never miss an opportunity to be where an author is,” said Connie Rosenblatt, Auburn resident. “You will learn so much more by doing that than just by reading the book.”
Betty Burgess, Auburn resident, attended the event because her book club read "One Amazing Thing."
“We have read the book, and we have enjoyed the book,” Burgess said. “It helps to know why she wrote the book and what inspired it, and I think it will enhance our discussion. It helps to think about one amazing thing that has happened to you. We’ll probably talk about that and how a lot of times things that seem to be insignificant and when you look back on them years later, you think well that was really incredible and a turning point in my life, even though I didn’t even realize it at the time.”
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