Ayad Akhtar

in conversation with Amitava Kumar

Recorded Saturday, September 19th, 2020

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Ayad Akhtar in conversation with Amitava Kumar

Saturday, September 19th

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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

Get ready to join Ayad in conversation, Wednesday, Saturday, September 19th.

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  • 4

    votes

    What is the last thing you saw or read that moved you?

  • 3

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    In what ways do you hope to push theater boundaries in your career?

  • 3

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    I just read your great piece in the NYT about your mother, what made you write it and what did your family think of you publishing that?

  • 3

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    You have spoken about the backlash your book has received, specifically from pakistani-american mothers. Why do you think this was? What did it bring up for you?

  • 3

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    Who are some of your favorite authors, whether fiction or non-fiction, and have they influenced your writing?

  • 2

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    What are your plans for PEN… and congratulations!

  • 2

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    What is the role of a writer in times like these?

  • 2

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    Who is your intended audience?

  • 2

    votes

    What is your research process like when sitting down to write a novel or play? Interested in the nitty gritty/ mechanics of the process.

  • 1

    votes

    What are your rules of thumb about using details from other people’s private lives in your fiction and asking permission or not. Asking as an aspiring fiction writer.

  • 1

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    Ayad, in an interview you seemed to say that you don’t want to do advertising for Islam or Muslims. Honestly, isn’t it misleading for you to give the impression that you could if you do not personally believe in it?

  • 1

    votes

    When you are writing a novel, do you have in mind how it might be translated into a screenplay?

  • 0

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    I just watched an interview about the play, ‘Junk” and it influenced me not to join millions of others who
    paid for something without thinking about aspects you raised about American culture – thank you!