When SJ Sindu enrolled as a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2005, she was in a computer science and business management honors program. Today, she is an award-winning author of four novels with a master’s degree in English and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing. 

At the end of 2021, Sindu released her most recent novel, “Blue-Skinned Gods.” The story follows a young boy with blue skin that is believed to be a god. In following his journey, the book covers themes of ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual identities. Before spring break, Sindu was able to return to UNL for a reading of her book and said Nebraska helped pave her path for her career and success. 

During her freshman year, Sindu discovered that she didn’t enjoy computer science as much as she thought she would, along with some other revelations. She said that in the fall semester, she figured out that she was queer, got involved with the Queer Student Alliance and made a group of friends who were all activists. In the spring, she took a creative writing course. 

“Something clicked in my brain and I was like, ‘This is it,’” Sindu said. “So I knew I needed to make creative writing part of my life somehow. I dropped out of the J. D. Edwards Honors Program and changed my major.”

Sindu said that everything really changed for her when she took a class with Timothy Schaffert during the fall of her sophomore year. She said that Schaffert gave her the courage and confidence to actively pursue writing as a career. 

“I was like, ‘If he can make it as a queer writer, publish novels and teach, maybe that’s what I want,’” Sindu said. “For the first time, I could see what my life would be like. I didn’t know how to get there, but my professors mentored me through undergraduate and my master’s program and helped me figure out the things you don’t learn from a book.”

Schaffert, a UNL English professor and director of creative writing, recalled having Sindu as a student. He said that he feels pride watching her succeed as an author.

“I can picture her in the front row, always fully engaged in the conversation,” Schaffert said. “She was doing work even then that I thought was great and publishable. I’m very proud of her, and it’s very exciting to see her as a teacher herself now and publishing her own work just left and right.”

Sindu spent seven years total in Nebraska, which she said she has very fond memories of. From there, she went on to complete her Ph.D. at Florida State University. Since then, she has published four books, including award-winning novels such as “Blue-Skinned Gods” and “Marriage of a Thousand Lies.” She has also published a fantasy graphic novel “Shakti.” 

Recently, Sindu was able to return to Nebraska as a keynote speaker for the No Limits conference and performed a reading of her most recent novel, “Blue-Skinned Gods.” She said that it felt edifying to return to campus. 

Sindu’s mark on the university has come full circle, as “Blue Skinned Gods” is now being taught in one of Schaffert’s English classes. He said that it’s alumni like Sindu that motivate students and show them that their goals are possible. 

“I think it’s always encouraging when we can bring alumni back or bring them into the conversation,” Schaffert said. “Students are able to see people from the university who have gone on to success.”

Sindu recognized that many students she encountered during her visit to UNL aspire to be in her shoes one day. Having lived similar experiences to them, Sindu hoped to share the same knowledge she was given during her time as a student. 

“I hope that I can give some people insight or make somebody think differently about something,” Sindu said. “I know that, as a student, I’ve gotten one little nugget of insight that I’ve taken away from somebody’s lecture; I hope I can provide that for someone.”