Ayad Akhtar

in conversation with Amitava Kumar

Recorded Saturday, September 19th, 2020

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Ayad Akhtar in conversation with Amitava Kumar

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Ayad Akhtar new novel Homeland Elegies is the profound and provocative story an immigrant father and his son search for belonging — in post-Trump America, and with each other.

Ayad 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.

Ayad is the author of American Dervish, published in over 20 languages and named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012. 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, Ayad 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.

Amitava Kumar is the author of several books of non-fiction and two novels. His novel Immigrant, Montana was named one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker and The New York Times—and included in Barack Obama’s list of favorite books of 2018. Among Kumar’s honors are a Guggenheim fellowship and a fellowship from USArtists. His writing has appeared in GrantaHarper’s MagazineThe GuardianThe Nation, and The New York Times. Kumar is the Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar College. His new novel, A Time Outside This Time, will be published by Knopf in 2021.


“It’s because you’re different. You can’t live life by rules others give you. In that way, you and I are the same. You have to find your own rules. All my life I’ve been running away from their rules, Hayat. All my life. You will be the same.”

– Ayad Akhtar, American Dervish

A personal note from Ayad Akhtar. 

Sent September 28th, following his Conversations with Authors session.

Thank you for joining me and Amitava Kumar for our discussion of Homeland Elegies. Book Passage is such an amazing institution in our national literary life, and it was a real honor for me to be able to share some of the thinking behind my new book with you all. 

Book suggestions are always subjective. What you’d recommend to one person you might not to another. So here’s a list of books I’m reading and loving:

My conversation partner’s most recent book is amazing. President Obama loved it too:

A book that’s coming out next month that I’m excited about:

Stay safe fellow book-loving friends!

Ayad Akhtar