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Vauhini Vara is a novelist and journalist who has covered technology for the Wall Street Journal and written extensively on Artificial Intelligence. 


She was named a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her sci-fi/dystopian novel, The Immortal King Rao. Born into a family of Dalit coconut farmers in India in the 1950s, King Rao, the novel’s protagonist, becomes the most accomplished tech CEO in the world and, eventually, the leader of a global, corporate-led government. The New York Times reviewer called it, “a monumental achievement: beautiful and brilliant, heartbreaking and wise.”


Vara is also the author of a new book of short stories, This Is Salvaged

(Sept. 2023).

Vauhini Vara

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

4:30 p.m. — Craft Talk
7:30 p.m. — Reading/Q&A
Both events in the Multi-Purpose Room, Campus Center West Addition

University at Albany

1400 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12222  See map.

Vauhini Vara, credit Andrew Altschul copy.jpg

Photo credit: Andrew Altschul

Reviews of The Immortal King Rao

“A monumental achievement: beautiful and brilliant, heartbreaking and wise, but also pitiless, which may be controversial to list among its virtues but is in fact essential to its success. Vara respects her reader and herself too much to yield to the temptation to console us. How rare these days as a reader ― and how bracing, in the finest way ― to encounter a novel that refuses to treat you like a child or a studio audience. If that were the only thing to love about ‘Rao,’ it would probably be enough. But … there’s also everything else." ― Justin Taylor, The New York Times

“A premonitory, daring book that lands somewhere between speculative fiction and bildungsroman, storytelling and fortune-telling.” ― Mallika Rao, New York Magazine’s Vulture


“A brilliant and beautifully written book about capitalism and the patriarchy, about Dalit India and digital America, about power and family and love.” — Alex Preston, The Observer

“Not to be missed.” — Publisher’s Weekly 

“A sweeping, biting, elegant book for our time.” — Lydia Kiesling, The Millions The Millions

"Alternating between Rao’s childhood in a small Indian village, his early student days in the US, and the dystopian society in which Athena has to function, Vara’s original debut delivers challenging and weighty themes with a sure hand."
― Poornima Apte, Booklist (starred review)

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More about Vauhini Vara 

Vara was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, as a child of Indian immigrants, and grew up there and in Oklahoma and the Seattle suburbs. 


She began her writing 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 work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Businessweek, and elsewhere. She is a Wired contributing writer and can sometimes be found working as a story editor at the New York Times Magazine.

Vara 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 lives in Colorado with her husband, the writer Andrew Altschul, and their son.

About This Is Salvaged 

Child, parent, friend, sibling, neighbor, lover—in these stories of uncanny originality, a prize-winning writer pushes intimacy to its limits in prose of unearthly beauty.

A young girl reads the encyclopedia to her elderly neighbor, who is descending into dementia. A pair of teenagers seek intimacy as phone-sex operators. A competitive sibling tries to rise above the drunken mess of her own life to become a loving aunt. One sister consumes the ashes of another.

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And, in the title story, an experimental artist takes on his most ambitious project yet: constructing a life-size ark according to the Bible’s specifications. In a world defined by estrangement, where is communion to be found? The characters in This Is Salvaged, unmoored in turbulence, are searching fervently for meaning, through one another.

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