Vauhini Vara

Vauhini Vara's picture
  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
Vauhini Vara

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Vauhini Vara's debut novel, The Immortal King Rao (Norton, 2022), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics’ Circle’s John Leonard Prize, the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and won the Colorado Book Award. Publications that named it as a notable book of the year in which it was published include NPR and The New York Times, where Justin Taylor called it “a monumental achievement.” It is being adapted for television and has been published around the English-speaking world, including in India, where it won the Atta Galatta Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize and the Times of India AutHer Award.

Vara’s story collection, This is Salvaged (Norton, 2023) was named by The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, Vox, and the New York Public Library as a notable book of the year in which it was published; it was longlisted for The Story Prize and, in India, won the Kalinga Literary Festival Fiction Book Award. It will be followed by an essay collection, Searches (Pantheon, 2025), which will include her essay “Ghosts,” which was originally published in The Believer and later anthologized in The Best American Essays. Vara is also the author of a play, Ghost Variations — a stage adaptation of her essay “Ghosts” — which was selected to be performed as part of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’s 2024 Colorado New Play Summit.

Vara’s fiction has received an O. Henry Award, as well as honors from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, MacDowell, and Yaddo. Her creative nonfiction has also been honored by the Canada Council for the Arts and has been anthologized in The Best American Essays series.

She is a journalist and editor as well. She began her journalism career as a technology reporter at the Wall Street Journal and later launched, edited and wrote for the business section of the New Yorker’s website. Since then, her writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Harper’sBusinessweek, and elsewhere. She is a Wired contributing writer and can sometimes be found working as a story editor at the New York Times Magazine. Her journalism has been honored by the Asian American Journalists Association, the South Asian Journalists Association, the International Center for Journalists, the McGraw Center for Business Journalism, the International Journalists’ Programmes, and the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

She is a mentor at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Book Project and the secretary for Periplus, a collective mentoring writers of color. She was named a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Colorado State University for 2023-24. She also sits on the board of the Krishna D. Vara Foundation, which awards an annual scholarship to a graduating high-school student at Mercer Island High School in memory of her sister Krishna, who died of cancer in 2001. Vara was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, as a child of Indian immigrants, and grew up there and in Oklahoma and the Seattle suburbs. She lives in Colorado with her husband, the writer Andrew Altschul, and their son.

What Vauhini looks for in a Book Project mentee: I'm in search of mentees with devotion to their craft and a willingness to work relentlessly at it. I have written, taught, and edited both fiction and nonfiction, including journalism; I have the most experience with forms that would be considered "literary," but I'm interested in all kinds of writing (and am working on a novel with speculative elements). I seek diversity in the writers I mentor. For my 2020-22 cohort, I am particularly interested in mentoring writers at work on nonfiction books, including journalism.