Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Debut author, UT alumna returns to Austin, speaks at Texas Book Festival

Samuel Hayek
Author Deepa Varadarajan addresses Texas Book Festival panel attendees at the Texas State Capitol on Nov. 12, 2023.

When Deepa Varadarajan lived in Austin as a Plan II and economics student at UT, she never imagined writing a book, let alone speaking to an audience at the Capitol about it. Last weekend, Varadarajan, who graduated in 2000, returned to Austin to discuss her debut novel, “Late Bloomers,” at the Texas Book Festival.

While at UT, Varadarajan said she found her first inspiration to start writing.

“(I took) a modern British fiction class, which was one of my favorite classes at UT,” said Varadarajan, an associate law professor at Georgia State University. “We read Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things,’ (which) was one of the first works of fiction by a woman of South Asian origin that I had read and that sparked something in me.”

Mia Carter, who now serves as associate dean for student affairs, taught the class and expressed her surprise at its impact on Varadarajan.

“At the time during which I had Deepa, there were probably not many people teaching contemporary South Asian British literature,” Carter said. “(South Asian British writers) have changed the face of literature, of what we assume English literature or British literature to be.”

In their time together, Carter said she imagined Varadarajan as a successful writer.

“Deepa was always committed, interested, attentive, an active contributor,” Carter said. “Some people, you see them going someplace.”

At the Texas Book Festival at the Capitol on Sunday, Varadarajan spoke on a panel with authors Kennedy Ryan and Sajni Patel on the theme of “family, romance and venturing into the unknown,” which their books focus on.

Varadarajan said she drew inspiration from her own life for “Late Bloomers.”

“Although this family is not based on my family, I also grew up in a college town in a Tamil-speaking family,” Varadarajan said. “My background has inspired things like the setting of the story, and there’s a lot of mention of food and other cultural aspects that I’ve drawn from my own life.”

Varadarajan’s editor Andrea Walker said the book relates to people from all walks of life.

“Deepa wanted to tell a family story that was also a story about cultural assimilation in the US, about relationships, about love and finding love later in your life,” Walker said. “It’s a book that speaks to such a wide range of experiences, which is one of the things that appealed to me about it.”

Varadarajan said she found herself connecting to readers who found themselves in her book.

“It’s new for me because my background was in academic writing,”  Varadarajan said. “When you write dense legal articles, nobody says, ‘This made me laugh, this moved me, I have a real emotional connection to this.’ It’s been a new and nice experience.” 

Varadarajan said the publishing of “Late Bloomers” brought her dream since her time at UT to life. Walker helped to make her vision a reality.

“She thought for so many years that this dream would never happen,” Walker said. “The highlight for me has just been feeling like (we) put in the work and we made this dream happen.”

Varadarajan worked on the book for many years before it was published.

“This was a dream of mine for almost two decades,” Varadarajan said. “I feel really lucky. There’s so many talented writers in the world, and it’s very hard to get published. I feel happy about how it’s turned out.”

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