’02 Novelist: From Lowell House to Random House

Former Crimson managing editor inks deal to publish 2 books of fiction

Most undergraduate theses languish on the shelves of the Harvard Archives, but a thesis by Vasugi V. Ganeshananthan ’02 is the seed of a novel that will soon be headed to a bookstore near you.

Ganeshananthan, a onetime Lowellian and former Crimson managing editor, reached a two-book deal with Random House, Inc., late last month. The first of the two, “Love Marriage,” is slated for release in the spring of 2008. It tells the story of a globally-scattered Sri Lankan family as it encounters violence and displacement over several generations.

Ganeshananthan, whose parents are Sri Lankan, said she her advisor, visiting lecturer Jamaica Kincaid, encouraged her to publish the thesis.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Kincaid said of her mentee’s book deal. “She was one of my best students.” That’s profound praise considering that Kincaid, a former staff writer for the New Yorker who now teaches English as well as African and American Studies at Harvard, is herself an award-winning author.

Ganeshananthan, like her mentor, has worked at big-name publications before her first novel hits bookshelves. She has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic Monthly, the American Prospect, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

At The Crimson, she covered then-Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine and later served as associate managing editor, the top post on the paper’s news staff, before being named managing editor in September 2001. She said that while she enjoyed writing stories as a child and has been involved in journalism since her high school days in Bethesda, Md., she found her footing as a fiction writer at Harvard.

Ganeshananthan had the opportunity to pursue an independent study in creative writing with Kincaid in her sophomore year. “She wouldn’t let me slide by,” Ganeshananthan said of Kincaid. “Not that anyone would choose an independent study intending to slide by, but, at the time, I was trying on different styles. When I found the right material, she was very encouraging.”

Ganeshananthan, whose second book is still in progress, also said that her journalistic background helped her in her first foray into fiction.

“Journalism gives you a framework to do research, and my experience definitely helped me do research for this book,” she said.

And even with a fiction deal inked, Ganeshananthan isn’t letting her journalistic talents go to waste. She’s now in her first year at the Columbia University Graduate Journalism School.