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American Dervish: A Novel Paperback – September 4, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 371 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Akhtar, the star and director of the 2005 terrorism drama The War Within, offers what promises to be one of the most complex treatments of Muslim immigration and fundamentalism to come from an American-born (albeit first-generation) writer."―Boris Kachka, New York Magazine

"Whether you believe religion is a precious gift from God or the greatest scourge of mankind, you will find yourself represented in these pages. With brilliant storytelling and exquisitely balanced points of view, Ayad Akhtar creates characters who experience the rapture of religion but also have their lives ripped apart by it."―Manil Suri, author of The Death of Vishnu and The Age of Shiva

"Akhtar's graceful and moving novel is a story most immigrants can relate to, regardless of background, but resonates particularly with first generation Muslim-Americans who, in this interconnected world, struggle daily with both a clash of cultures and (today) a deep suspicion of, if not prejudice against the faith of their forefathers. But apart from that, it is a wonderful story of coming to terms with who one is, and who society expects one to be--and absolutely everyone can relate to that."―Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ and The Ayatollahs' Democracy

"A compelling debut with a family drama centered on questions of religious and ethnic identity.... Akhtar, himself a first-generation Pakistani-American from Milwaukee, perfectly balances a moving exploration of the understanding and serenity Islam imparts to an unhappy preteen with an unsparing portrait of fundamentalist bigotry and cruelty.... His well-written, strongly plotted narrative is essentially a conventional tale of family conflict and adolescent angst, strikingly individualized by its Muslim fabric. Hayat's father is in many ways the most complex and intriguing character, but Mina and Nathan achieve a tragic nobility that goes beyond their plot function as instruments of the boy's moral awakening.... [The story's] warm tone and traditional but heartfelt coming-of-age lesson will appeal to a broad readership. Engaging and accessible, thoughtful without being daunting: This may be the novel that brings Muslim-American fiction into the commercial mainstream."―Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"The young teen's personal story about growing up in Muslim America is both particular and universal, with intense connections of faith, sorrow, tenderness, anger, betrayal, questioning, and love."
Hazel Rochman, Booklist

"AMERICAN DERVISH opens with an epigram from the Hadith Qudsi (sacred sayings of Muhammad): "And Allah said: I am with the ones whose hearts are torn." A fitting quote for this moving, insightful story about religion and family, immigration and assimilation, wherein hearts are numbed, warmed and broken. Faith and love are found, lost and re-formed as the narrator, Hayat Shah, travels a jagged road through the early years of adolescence with all its confusions and dramatic certainties.... Ayad Akhtar's explorations into the tension between the universal truths of religion and literal readings of its documents plays out effectively in AMERICAN DERVISH,his debut novel. Already a master of scene and dialogue, and evocative prose, he's created a compelling and visceral story. When Mina teaches Hayat to listen to the still small voice within that can only be heard by finding the silence at the end of a breath, Hayat tries, and discovers what will continue to inspire him to find the still, small voice hidden between and beneath each breath, and, with it, wisdom and insight."―Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness

"Loss of innocence-sexual, of course, but also cultural and religious-is the subject of Ayad Akhtar's poignant AMERICAN DERVISH, set in a Muslim-American community in the early 1980s.... With characters full of contradictions and complexity, this debut novel is refreshing for its lack of the political and religious hand-wringing so common in the post-9/11 world. But it's also resonantly familiar in its depiction of youthful obsession and the desire to belong."―Sara Nelson, O, the Oprah Magazine

"AMERICAN DERVISH is an intelligent, courageously honest book about religion that never bogs down in dogma, proscriptions, or easy answers. The characters are memorable and alive, most of all the narrator's fierce, tough-minded mother and gorgeous, tragically principled "auntie," who in different ways help the young narrator on his difficult path of doubt, faith, and, hopefully, happiness. The story is as stirring and thought-provoking as it is compulsively page-turning."―Kate Christensen, author of The Astral and The Great Man

"[A] heartfelt first novel.... Akhtar himself is the son of Pakistani immigrants who settled in Wisconsin, and his knowing take on the complexities of that particular experience feels fresh.... The book's central tension between secularism and religiosity obviously has broader significance, and Akhtar explores these issues with admirable nuance.... Akhtar's characters drive a story that's compelling and believable even at its most alien. AMERICAN DERVISHoffers a rich look at a nearby world that many Americans don't know nearly enough about."Rob Brunner, Entertainment Weekly

"What a pleasure to encounter a first novel as self-assured and effortlessly told as Ayad Akhtar's AMERICAN DERVISH. Mr. Akhtar, a first-generation Pakistani-American, has written an immensely entertaining coming-of-age story set during the early 1980s among the Pakistanis in the author's hometown, Milwaukee.... Mr. Akhtar's astute observations of the clashes between old world and new, between secular and sacred, among immigrants might seem familiar to readers of both contemporary and classic literature.... But what distinguishes Mr. Akhtar's novel is its generosity and its willingness to embrace the contradictions of its memorably idiosyncratic characters and the society they inhabit.... Mr. Akhtar is particularly adept at depicting the tensions between Jews and Muslims in pre-Sept. 11 America.... Yet for all the rage and satire contained within its pages, Mr. Akhtar's novel is far from an antireligious screed in the tradition of Christopher Hitchens. It is instead admirably restrained, deeply appreciative of some aspects of Islam and ultimately far more interested in raising provocative questions than in definitively answering them.... [A] charming debut."Adam Langer, New York Times

About the Author

Ayad Akhtar is a screenwriter, playwright, actor, and novelist. He is the author of the novel American Dervish and was nominated for a 2006 Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay for the film The War Within. His plays include Disgraced, recipient of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; The Who & The What and The Invisible Hand, both of which received Off-Broadway runs and are being produced around the world; and Junk, produced at Lincoln Center in 2017 He lives in New York City.

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Product details

  • Publisher : Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 031618330X
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0316183307
  • Item Weight : 12 ounces
  • Dimensions : 5.4 x 1.25 x 8.2 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 371 ratings

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
371 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on February 7, 2016
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Boudu
4.0 out of 5 stars The Oneness of All
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 17, 2013
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5.0 out of 5 stars american dervish
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 23, 2012
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1.0 out of 5 stars Did not get what I ordered
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 21, 2020
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Charlotte
5.0 out of 5 stars I really loved this commercial literary novel
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 19, 2015
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
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