Bharti Kirchner is the prolific author of eight books -- four novels and four cookbooks, and has been publishing since 1992. Her work has been translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, Marathi, Thai and other languages. Her fourth novel Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries (St. Martin’s Press) is now out in hardcover. Darjeeling (St. Martin’s Press), a third novel, received endorsements from top national authors. Shiva Dancing (Dutton), her first novel, was chosen by Seattle Weekly to be among the top 18 books by Seattle authors in the last 25 years. ("A finely crafted novel," says Publisher’s Weekly. "A fresh literary terrain," says San Francisco Chronicle.) Sharmila’s Book, a second novel, was published by Dutton. (“Smart, swift, and funny,” says Publisher’s Weekly.) Bharti has won two Seattle Arts Commission literature grants, and an Artist Trust GAP grant.
An award winning cook, Bharti is the author of four cookbooks. Her second, Indian Inspired (Lowell House), was selected among top ten cookbooks of 1993 by USA Today and one of the best cookbooks of 1993 by Chicago Tribune. Her first, The Healthy Cuisine of India (Lowell House), was an alternate selection of Better Homes and Gardens Book Club and named by Food Arts magazine as one of the best cookbooks of 1992. Her two most recent cookbooks are The Bold Vegetarian (HarperCollins) and Vegetarian Burgers (HarperCollins).
Bharti has written numerous articles and essays on food, travel, fitness, and lifestyle in magazines that include Food & Wine, Eating Well, Vegetarian Times, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Fitness Plus, and Northwest Travel. She is a freelance book reviewer for The Seattle Times and has profiled celebrities for the International Examiner. She has been widely reviewed and profiled in magazines and newspapers throughout the country and has appeared in many radio and television shows. She is a frequent speaker at writer’s conferences, book festivals, and universities throughout the nation.
Prior to becoming a writer, Bharti worked as a systems engineer for IBM and as a systems manager for Bank of America, San Francisco. She has also worked in Europe and other continents as a computer systems consultant. She holds advanced degrees in Mathematics.
1. Title of Book: Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries (St. Martin’s Press)
Sunya Malhotra, a young American woman, is the head baker and owner of Pastries, a warm and cozy bakery in Seattle. Sunya loves baking and has transformed her fabulous cakes and tarts into delicious works of art. The success of her beloved bakery is put in jeopardy, however, when a chain bakery threatens to open up down the street from her. To add to her misery, Roger, her hip, Japanese boyfriend has left her for a "perfect" Japanese girlfriend and her mother has just become engaged to a man Sunya detests. Even a new relationship with a hot, young Film director who is in town to cover the World Trade Conference, can’t help Sunya with her biggest worry – she has lost her touch for baking.
Overwhelmed, Sunya is surprised to find herself listening when her new Japanese baker offers her a solution to her problems – enroll in a baking school in Japan! Of course, this isn’t just any baking school. It is run by a famous Japanese baker, Mori Matsumoto, and is based on the principle of mindfulness. Soon Sunya finds herself learning the basic skills of baking all over again. Is this what she needs to rediscover herself? Will she recapture her zest for work and life?
EXCERPT FROM PASTRIES
I, Sunya Malhotra, am a woman who lives to bake.
This morning I spring out of bed at 5 A.M., just as the sparrows are beginning to twitter, and soon drive, bleary-eyed, the ten blocks to my bakery.
Once in the airy kitchen, I go straight to the counter, caress its marble surface, and revel in the joy of its clean cool touch. Before long I am sifting the pastry flour into a mixing bowl with a rhythmic motion -- I can’t resist dipping my fingers into the sensuous powder. A glance at the clock tells me it’s time to stop dawdling start cracking. Egg yolks slide into one bowl, whites into another. The yolks shimmer like a pool of captured sunlight; the whites repose, a limpid mass that magnifies the mosaic pattern on the bottom of the copper bowl. Finally, I set the pieces of premium chocolate in a water bath over a low flame where they melt into dark liquor with a bittersweet perfume. Whipping egg whites became a ritual for me a long time ago and I begin to make quick strokes with a handwhisk.
In the background the notes of a Baroque melody float from the radio.
Roger, the recently departed love of my life, drifts into my mind. He adored that Baroque piece.
These solitary morning hours are still the hardest, but I am passionate to work, to bake my signature creation, the Sunya Cake. In only a few hours, a newspaper food critic will interview mw about my best-selling item. Just the thought puts me on edge.
PRAISE FOR PASTRIES
“Those who choose cookbooks as bedtime reading will savor Kirchner’s baking lore.”
(Publisher’s Weekly, June 30, 2003)
“You will be treated to a story about awareness and rediscovery along with morsels of Zen wisdom. . . . The delicious plot keeps the pages turning.” (Miami Herald, November 6, 2003)
“Kirchner renders the daily routine of a bakery in a deliciously meandering fashion.”
(Seattle Weekly, July 15, 2003)
“Bharti Kirchner serves up another captivating narrative, possibly her best work to date. . . Kirchner continues to explore the uneasiness of cultural and spiritual identity and enjoys weaving a narrative with the elements of two very different Asian cultures, something not often done by other writers.” (India Currents, September 2003)
“A rising Seattle novelist (and former cookbook author) crafts a fine fourth novel.
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 2003)
“Witty, sensitive …. Kirchner deftly weaves an intricate tangle and then gradually unties the knots toward the end…..The language is elegant.)
(San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 2003)
“Delicious is how one would describe Pastries.”
(Northwest South Asian, June 29, 2003)
“Kirchner’s prose has an easy, unhurried style. Her talents as a cookbook author translate smoothly into fiction. We can smell her mouth-watering desserts right off the page.”
(The Seattle Times, July 27, 2003)
“Sweet savory details blend at quirky Seattle café.”
(Detroit Free Press, July 24, 2003)
“Coming from an author of Indian origin, this novel is very different and very refreshing. Is sensuous and richly detailed descriptions not only moves the reader . . . but provides an unusual background to the deeper issues explored within.” (Reviewed by SAWNET)
Pastries is a “Must Read” in the August 2003 issue of Working Mother magazine.
Pastries is included in “100 to Look For” by the Seattle Times.
Pastries is a selection of King County Library System’s Good Read/Book Group Recommendation.
Darjeeling: A Novel
Set in the mountainous tea plantations of Darjeeling, India and in New York City, DARJEELING is the story of two sisters – Aloka and Sujata – long separated by their love for Pranab, an idealistic young revolutionary. Pranab loves Sujata, the awkward, prickly, younger sister but, out of obligation, marries Aloka, the gracious, beautiful, older sister. When all of their secrets are revealed, the three are forced to leave Darjeeling. Aloka and Pranab flee to New York City and Sujata to Canada. The story opens ten years later, when Aloka and Sujata’s grandmother summons everyone home to the family tea plantation to celebrate her birthday. Despite the fact that Aloka is still very much in love with Pranab, they are in the process of getting a divorce. Sujata, who is still single, runs a successful business importing tea, a business that doesn’t fill her broken heart. This trip forces the sisters to wrestle with their bitterness and anger and to try to heal old wounds. What complicates matters is that Pranab, too, is going to India and is intent on rekindling his relationship with Sujata now that his marriage is over.
Although filled with the rich foods, smells, and social confines of another culture, DARJEELING is really about the universally human emotions of jealousy, rivalry, love, and honor. It is a complex novel about family, exile, sisterly relations, and how one incident can haunt us for the rest of our lives.
EXCERPT FROM DARJEELING
Aloka Gupta gazed down from the spare-room window of her third-floor apartment at the gray-brown bustle of Manhattan’s Fifty-Second Street, her thoughts turning to her childhood home and the family-owned tea plantation in Darjeeling. Urged on by the chill of the short autumn days, the tea plants were now forming their third flush of tender shiny leaves, lending a tantalizing fragrance to the crisp mountain air. Seven years earlier, her life and love, like the bumblebees flitting from bud to bud, had been entwined with those bushes.
The cold jumble of glass, concrete, chrome, and steel before her now stood in cruel contrast to the allure of that idyllic time. As she turned away, the final divorce papers, legal-sized and officiously stamped with the seal of the state of New York and the day’s date, stared accusingly from the top of her writing desk.
How was a divorce possible? She had always assumed that she would grow up to be a pativrata and remain devoted to her husband for the rest of her life. Having been reared on stories of powerful goddesses, Sita and Draupadi, examples of devoted Hindu wives, she found it hard to believe that now, at age forty, she would be alone. Sita and Draupadi would exist only on the pages of scriptures.
PRAISE FOR DARJEELING:
“An engrossing story of love, loss and retrieval that pulls the reader into the richly constructed world of an old tea estate family, with all its beauties, traditions, taboos and heartbreaks.”
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of The Mistress of Spices and The Vine of Desire
“Eager to lose themselves in love, two sisters instead grow to find their places in the world. Told with perception and humor, Bharti Kirchner’s Darjeeling is a rich and subtle brew.”
Lydia Minatoya, author of The Strangeness of Beauty
"For her third novel, Bharti Kirchner has brought her considerable
gifts--her radiant prose and deep understanding of the human heart--to a
story of India and America, sisterhood and family, and love and loss
that's funny, moving, and wise. Darjeeling is an enchantment."
Robert Clark, author of the Edgar Award winning Mr. White’s Confession
“The brilliant novel Darjeeling brews the complications of family loyalties, and love's ambiguities with the politics of tea.” Craig Lesley, author of Storm Riders
"This is a book rich with reading pleasures." Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Co.
“Interwoven with themes of family, unrequited love, and forgiveness, Darjeeling is as strong as the tea itself and just as satisfying.” (Review in Booklist)
“A novelist and Indian cookbook author mixes a sensual and at times suspenseful transcontinental family saga as two sisters vie for the same man.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“(Kirchner) reveals a tremendous faith in her characters and their love of their homeland …she does infuse her work with a genuine Indian spirit.” (Review in Publisher’s Weekly)
“Darjeeling is poetically told, artfully rendered story of the true test of blood loyalties, bringing a family to the brink and back again. There is a lot to love here.” (Review in India Currents)
“Bharti Kirchner brings privileged insight to bear in her fiction. …This is a bittersweet story, as astringent and refreshing as a brisk up of tea.” (Review in The Seattle Times)
“Author Bharti Kirchner has made a reputation for sensitive portrayals of Asian Indians. .. (Her) masterfully paced writing is full of emotional piquancy and delicate flavors.” (Review in International Examiner)
Title of Book: Shiva Dancing: A Novel
Meena Kumari is seven years old and about to marry her best friend, Vishnu Rathan, according to the ancient custom of child marriage when she is abducted from her village in the northwest of India. Although she manages to escape the kidnappers, she does not return to the world she knows. Now, on the eve of her thirty-fifth birthday, Meena has begun to question her fast-track life as a systems manager in San Francisco, the city she had called home for the last twenty-eight years. Her adoptive mother has died, and feeling lonely and homesick, Meena resolves to return to her roots and reclaim her cultural heritage. It is a quest complicated by her relationship with San Francisco novelist Antoine Peterson and by the path she has chosen – one that will lead her to her lost love. Though Meena returns to India and manages to reunite with Vishnu, she discovers her true identity there. What choices will Meena make? Will she return to the United States?
EXCERPT FROM SHIVA DANCING
Seven, her people always believed, was an auspicious number. One’s life began anew every seven years. So it seemed quite natural to Meena Kumari that she was to wed Vishnu Rathan on her seventh birthday, the night of the full moon. Named after the Hindu god of nurturing, Vishnu was also seven. They had grown up together in Karamgar , a small village of less than a hundred mud houses scattered along winding dirt paths at the edge of the great Thar desert of Rajasthan. They had been friends and playmates ever since she could remember, spending hours playing hide-and-seek in the low-lying rocky hills, smelling the marigolds and chasing the wild peacocks that foraged for food in the village streets.
PRAISE FOR SHIVA DANCING
“Fresh literary terrain . . . Shiva Dancing is part travel guide, part sociopolitical study of contemporary India and even part cookbook.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Bharti Kirchner brings the stories of her homeland’s women to America’s best-seller lists.” (The Seattle Times)
“Her descriptions of foods, beverages, and other domestic customs are richly suggestive, adding color and flavor to an already evocative novel.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“Kirchner is a smooth writer using stunning moves in the text. She creates her characters in such a fine manner that we are able to visualize them and understand the motivation. . . The book is totally engrossing and moving.” (KLCC Radio, Eugene, OR)
To e-mail the author, go to www. Bhartikirchner.com