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Monday, Jan. 9, 2012

Ayad Akhtar's Elegant, Forceful 'American Dervish'

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Author Ayad Akhtar, a first-generation Pakistani-American who grew up in Milwaukee, graduated from both Brown and Columbia universities. His somewhat-autobiographical debut novel, American Dervish, tells the emotional story of Hayat, a young Muslim boy coming of age in the American Midwest of the 1980s. Through its elegant prose, this narrative describes how a young man learns to juggle his cultural identity, religious faith and family history while growing up amid suburban life. Hayat's life changes when his mother's oldest friend from Pakistan comes to live with the family. With her lively disposition, the woman energizes the family's Muslim faith in a completely new way, forcing Hayat to question all that he has come to believe. Ultimately, Hayat's actions and their accompanying consequences drastically affect those he loves the most.

The brilliant, forceful writing in American Dervish creates a vivid portrayal of a young man growing up Muslim in the United States. This compelling drama shows the delicate interplay between religion and modern life facing many American Muslims. Readers will find an insightful, honest exploration of one individual's personal journey toward an authentic ethnic identity.

Akhtar's 2005 film The War Within was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay. American Dervish is his first novel. Akhtar will appear at Boswell Book Co. on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.