How to pronounce Ayad Akhtar: AY-add AHK-tar
Ayad Akhtar was born in New York City and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is the author of American Dervish, published in over twenty languages worldwide and a 2012 Best Book of the Year at Kirkus Reviews, Toronto's Globe and Mail, Shelf-Awareness, and O (Oprah) Magazine. He is also a playwright and screenwriter. His stage play Disgraced played at New York's LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater in 2012, and won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His latest play, The Who & The What, premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in February 2014, and opened in New York at LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater in June 2014. As a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for The War Within. He has been the recipient of fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo, as well as commissions from Lincoln Center Theater and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is a graduate of Brown and Columbia Universities with degrees in Theater and Film Directing.
Ayad Akhtar's website
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Ayad Akhtar answers questions about American Dervish and explains how growing up as a Muslim in America influenced his writing.
Why did you choose to set American Dervish in 1980s Wisconsin?
Wallace Stevens writes beautifully of the process of creation as the fashioning of images with wood out of one's own forests, and stone out of one's own fields. I grew up in Wisconsin and wanted very much to draw on the textures of my childhood. Though the story is fiction, I wanted to imbue it with a sense of lived reality, a register of authenticity I could achieve only by drawing on my own youth. Also, I wanted to depict a time before the world had politicized being Muslim. Setting the novel in the 1980s allowed me to draw a picture of a community where much of the conflict engulfing the world today was already beginning to take shape.
How has your experience of growing up as Muslim-American affected your work?
Before writing American Dervish, I worked as a screenwriter and playwright, and most of my work has dealt with Muslim-American identity, the unique challenges of identifying oneself (or being identified by others) primarily by a religious faith and, in Islam's case, by a faith that has often seen itself (and been ...
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