As part of the University theme Thrive, Chitra Divakaruni’s award-winning book One Amazing Thing was selected to be the first-year read. Divakaruni came to Bay Path to give the Annual Thumbprint Lecture, and after the event she shared her thoughts on the power of storytelling and why One Amazing Thing connects to people of all ages and backgrounds.
More important, One Amazing Thing became a springboard for Bay Path students to discuss topics so relevant in our national dialogue: diversity, embracing other cultures, and empathy for the conditions of others.
For Chitra Divakaruni the solitary act of reading, so often being portrayed as a person in an armchair tucked in a corner turning the page while balancing a cup of tea, can be one way of channeling the joys of the written word. But reading, as she points out with a smile, can also be a communal. More than 150 first-year Bay Path students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends experienced just that when One Amazing Thing was selected as the group read.
“We read to know that we are not alone,” Divakaruni stated. “When students do it communally, reading becomes very special because they take in the story and many can often find something to relate to—a character, a scene, even a sentence. And when students share their thoughts and views with others, in a very subtle way they are building bonds and community among themselves.”
In One Amazing Thing, as a result of an earthquake in a passport and visa office, a group of strangers are trapped together. Forced to cope with the physical and psychological strains of their frightening circumstances, a young graduate student among them encourages each person in the group to reveal “one amazing thing” about their lives in order to keep their spirits up. What unfolds is the fabric of the human condition as told in story form.
“Storytelling is having a resurgence in our world,” remarked Divakaruni. “And I’ve found that this form really resonates with students. Through the stories in One Amazing Thing, students find the inspiration to open up and tell their own stories. When they do that…when they let others in…it allows them to own their stories, to heal, or to find strength. It is very empowering. It allows them to thrive.”
One Amazing Thing has been a popular group read on many colleges and universities campuses across the United States. The novel not only connects readers to the larger world through the focus of the story (it’s frightening to think about being trapped with strangers in circumstances beyond one’s control), but is also incorporates diversity through the background of the characters.
“This book celebrates diversity and gives students a safe platform to discuss differences and the things we all have in common,” related Divakaruni. “Diversity is one of the strengths of America. I hope with One Amazing Thing I’ve been able to start the conversation between students about all the great and wonderful things about our country. It’s up to them to make sure it continues.”
One Amazing Thing has been optioned by Hollywood and production plans are underway.