Review: American Dervish – Ayad Akhtar

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (January 9, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316183318
ISBN-13: 978-0316183314
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Hayat Shah – 10 year old Pakistani American
Mina Ali – A Young woman fleeing Pakistan
Naveed Shah – The husband to Mina’s best friend in America.
Muneer Shah – Mina’s best friend.


Mina Ali grew up in Pakistan. She marries and divorces, but not before producing a son, Imran. When her ex-husband threatens to take Imran away when he turns 7, she becomes desperate. She reaches out to her friends, the Shah’s in America. She is invited to live with them, and that’s where the majority of this story takes place. The time period is the early 80s, and shows what it’s like to try and be faithful to the Quran while at the same time adapt to America. The story is told through the eyes of ten year old Hayat.

Through Hyat we get to see both sides of Islam. We see the radical Islam that led to things such as 9/11 and we get to see the more peaceful Islam. We also see that the trials of his family are no different than anyone elses. He has a heavy drinking, womanizing father. A mother who though angry, doesn’t take the risk to leave her husband.

We also get to view Allah through the eyes of Hayat and many of the other characters. The one lesson I took away is there are many different views about Allah just as there are about any deity.

I think the characters were very 3 dimensional, and the novel at times felt more like a memoir than a work of fiction. There was some strong language, some anti-semitic comments (within context), and strong situations. I’d recommend it to older audiences, but would definitely recommend it to those interested in learning a little more about our Muslim brothers and sisters.

If you get the opportunity, pick up a copy, or enter our contest. Thanks to Anna at Hachette, we’ve been given permission to give away 2 copies to our readers. To enter for a chance go here.

About the Author

Ayad earned a degree in Theater from Brown University and, after graduating, moved to Tuscany to work with world-renowned acting theorist and pioneer, Jerzy Grotowski (Towards a Poor Theater). He has been a New York City resident since the late nineties where he has taught acting on his own and alongside Andre Gregory (My Dinner With Andre, Vanya on 42nd St).

An alumnus of the Graduate Film Program at Columbia University, Ayad earned a degree in directing and won multiple awards for his work. He is the author of numerous screenplays. He co-wrote and played the lead role in THE WAR WITHIN, which premiered at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival. It was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award (Best Screenplay) and an International Press Academy Satellite Award (Best Picture – Drama) and released internationally.

Also a playwright, his latest stage plays are DISGRACED and THE INVISIBLE HAND. DISGRACED is currently under option with The Araca Group (Urinetown, the Broadway revival of A View from the Bridge, and Pacino’s Merchant of Venice). And THE INVISIBLE HAND will be premiering at St. Louis Repertory Theater in 2012.

AMERICAN DERVISH is his first novel.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Anna at Hachette Book GroupĀ for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

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