Ayad Akhtar biography

Author Biography  | Interview  | Books by this Author  | Readalikes

Ayad Akhtar

Ayad Akhtar

How to pronounce Ayad Akhtar: i-yahd AHK-tar (first syllable rhymes with my)

Ayad Akhtar Biography

Ayad Akhtar is a novelist and playwright. His work has been published and performed in over two dozen languages. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Akhtar is the author of American Dervish (Little, Brown & Co.), published in over 20 languages and named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012, as well as the forthcoming novel, Homeland Elegies (Little, Brown & Co.) in September 2020. As a playwright, he has written Junk (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Kennedy Prize for American Drama, Tony nomination); Disgraced (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony nomination); The Who & The What (Lincoln Center); and The Invisible Hand (NYTW; Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, Olivier, and Evening Standard nominations). As a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for The War Within.

Among other honors, Akhtar is the recipient of the Steinberg Playwrighting Award, the Nestroy Award, the Erwin Piscator Award, as well as fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, MacDowell, the Sundance Institute, and Yaddo, where he serves as a Board Director. Additionally, Ayad is a Board Trustee at PEN America and New York Theatre Workshop. He lives in New York City.

Ayad Akhtar's website

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Interview

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 seen by others) as "opposed" to the West.

The bedrock question from which all my inspiration derives is: What does it mean to be both ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Ayad Akhtar at BookBrowse
Homeland Elegies jacket American Dervish jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Ayad Akhtar but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Jason DeParle

    Jason DeParle

    Jason DeParle is a reporter for the New York Times and has written extensively about efforts to address poverty. His book, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare was a New York Times ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Homeland Elegies

    Try:
    A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves
    by Jason DeParle

  • Roshi Fernando

    Roshi Fernando

    Roshi Fernando grew up in southeast London and received her Ph.D. in creative writing from Swansea University. She was a finalist for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2011. She lives in the Cotswolds, ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    American Dervish

    Try:
    Homesick
    by Roshi Fernando

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