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American Dervish

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  7,612 ratings  ·  1,149 reviews
American Dervish is a brilliantly written, nuanced, and emotionally forceful look inside the interplay of religion and modern life.

Hayat Shah is a young American in love for the first time. His normal life of school, baseball, and video games had previously been distinguished only by his Pakistani heritage and by the frequent chill between his parents, who fight over
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 9th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  7,612 ratings  ·  1,149 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it by the author: Ayad Akhtar.....
Ayad Akhtar was a natural as narrator for his own novel. He was Excellent!

I was quickly drawn into this story when at the beginning Hayat Shah, the son of Pakistani Muslim parents living on the outskirts of Milwaukee, orders a beef hot dog at a baseball game. By mistake it’s a pork hot dog. It’s Hayat’s first time ever eating pork. He experiences an euphoric high: religious freedom!
I knew just how he felt. I had never eaten a cheeseburger in my
Isabel O.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
After reading some rave reviews, I was looking forward to getting my hands on this debut novel. Having read it, what I’m reminded of is that it is the book BUSINESS.

Here’s what I like about the book: it’s visually provocative (the author has a film background); it’s a quick and somewhat entertaining read; there are a few beautifully written passages. Basically, it’s the book you take to the beach or read on a flight.

But no big loss if it gets washed away or forgotten in a seat back. It’s not a
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
American Dervish: Ayad Akhtar’s book is a witty, humorous, educational, sensual and spiritual, insightful, captivating and riveting tale of a young child growing up in the Midwest in the early eighties. The author beautifully and painstakingly narrates the impressions of a child as he struggles to understand the complexity of Islam and thus his own identity, through the controversial messages from many well meaning people in his life. It points to the biases bred through cultural and historical ...more
Jill Lapin-Zell
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ayad Akhtar’s “American Dervish” is one of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time. I won this book in a giveaway on Goodreads, and I’m glad I did, because I might not have picked up this book otherwise, and then would have missed out on a most enjoyable read.

This book grabbed me from the start and never let me go. Its characters are multi-dimensional and believably flawed, and the writing is exquisite. For example, the passages where the author describes Hayat’s (who is actually telling
Feb 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
This is definitely a fast read. It's not the kind of book you want to linger over or revisit with any eagerness.* But that's not the reason I give it such a low rating.
Interesting, compelling books add to the story of stories. They appear fresh. Offer us something new. And, while it is true that every story tells us a tale we've already heard in one form or another, the good ones do it in a way which surprises the reader.
This book, American Dervish, rehashes the old in a connect-the-dots,
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ayad-akhtar
This is what life does to us,[...] It grinds us. Grinds us to dust.
Low against the horizon, billows of slow-moving dark blue clouds drifted, pregnant with rain. It was a picture of power and grace, and it filled me with quiet wonder.
All at once, I felt a swell of gratitude.
Gratitude for what? I wondered.
I remembered the afternoon of the ice cream social when Mina first taught me to listen to a still, small voice inside, hidden between and beneath the breath.
I breathed in deeply and exhaled.
Kate Z
May 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Before I started this book I saw an interview with Ayad Akhtar on the Tavis Smiley Show which framed my reading and enjoyment of the novel:

I was charmed and intrigued by Akhtar and especially interested when he talked about this being a novel about faith in America. He said that he thought that faith was an essential element in this country and this novel uses the Muslim faith as a way to explore that. It's not so much a book about being Muslim in America
Jan 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
Round up my review of 1.5 stars to 2 I guess. This was a hard book for me to get through. When I was given the galley at Book Expo I was told that it was the next "Kite Runner." I should've known better when anyone says a book is the next anything.

I really wanted to enjoy this as I feel stories from Asia in general are under represented in the U.S. and am sure that Middle Eastern stories have been on the rise in the past decade.

"American Dervish" is a coming-of-age story for a young
Jan 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
More like 1.5 stars.

I felt excited to read this book after hearing the author being interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. On air, he sounded unsure of himself and, at the same time, very opinionated---a combination I really like for reasons I won't go into here. Akhtar’s bio is intriguing...Ivy-educated, actor, playwright and student of Sufi masters (!). Sadly, his novel is disappointing compared to his punditry. I bet, though, he’d write fabulous essays.

American Dervish is a good, quick read but it
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and read in in a day!! I found the book very interesting and especially well written in describing the multi faceted joys and challenges growing up in an immigrant commmunity.The author' s character developement as to the dilemnas and issues of personal psychological and cultural identity was amazing. My family has a particular interest in the American Islamic community.My ex husband and I converted to Islam nearly 40 years- I was a Muslim for 15 years- My grown daughter has ...more
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is a fast read, a coming of age story about a young man who falls in love with his mother's best friend and makes a terrible choice that has terrible consequences. I didn't care for this book. It made all women suffer and all men tyrannical. There was little variation in how any men and women in this book related to one another. There was very little happiness to be found. And then there was so much of the book that felt more like a nonfiction book about the Qu'ran. I wanted those sections ...more
Apr 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
It is a rare book that captures my attention without needing to read 100 pages before finding my groove. This book held my interest from page one. It's a story about a Muslim-American family during the 80's and particularly the young boy, Hayat. I'm not going to summarize the plot. I will say the refreshing perspective Mr. Akhtar focuses on is that while they are Eastern in ethnicity and Muslim, their issues, inner conflicts and questioning of society within the Muslim community as well as their ...more
Dec 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Hayat Shah – the only son of Pakistani Muslim parents living on the outskirts of Milwaukee – is very likeable, the type of person you can imagine sitting down and talking to way into the night. In the first few pages of the novel, he is getting ready to share his life story to a young Jewish woman with these words: “You may not like me very much if I tell you what happened…”

But we do. As readers we do like Hayat as he reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly of his story, which begins when his
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
There’s a lot to like about this book – indeed, I expect it to be a much read and discussed book in 2012 (and deservedly so). Taking place predominately in the early 1980s in the suburbs of Milwaukee, the book centers on young Hayat Shah and his immersion in his Muslim faith after his mother’s best friend, Mina, comes to live with the Shah family. It’s an absolutely fascinating book – rich and complex with plenty of specific details while still encompassing universal lessons – and wonderfully ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing

And Allah said: I am with the ones
whose hearts are torn.

--Hadith Qudsi

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ayad Akhtar's novel, American Dervish, begins with a prologue: Hayat, a Pakistani-American college student, is eating his first pork at a basketball game and exulting over his new freedom from the claims of religious faith. The novel then
Erick Mullen
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you have ever been a father or a son, read this book. If you've ever loved someone you weren't "supposed" to love, read this book. If you watch the news and wonder why the Middle East is in constant turmoil, read this book.
This is a very sad story of love, betrayal and revenge… all in the forms of people wondering around looking for happiness. It was an interesting read, although it did not give the right image of regions, so won’t consider it as a spiritual finding or anything.
John Luiz
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
American Dervish is a terrific coming of age story. What makes it particularly stand out is that the protagonist, Hayat Shah, a 12-year-old Muslim boy isn’t simply the victim of selfish parents or bullying schoolmates. He has a petty and vindictive side, too, and the novel focuses on the lifelong guilt he feels over one particularly cruel act that he’s convinced changed the course of his “auntie’s" life. The auntie, Mina, comes to America to live with Hayat’s family after her arranged marriage ...more
Dec 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ayad Akhtar’s a friend, but even I was surprised by how much I was moved by his novel, American Dervish (Little Brown, January, 2012). It goes against the noise that seems to be everywhere in the news these days – protests, strife, discontent. It’s a quiet, thoughtful story about a boy trying to make sense of his life navigating the difficult topics of religion (Islam) and his culture’s “dirty laundry” – in this case, the neuroses of a Pakistani Muslim American family living in Milwaukee, ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
As a Pakistani Muslim American born and raised in the US, I was very excited when I heard about this coming-of-age story of a Pakistani American boy in the US written by a Pakistan American author. I also read positive reviews and, therefore, anticipated reading a nuanced, refreshing story with multidimensional characters reflecting an authentic Pakistani Muslim American experience.

My anticipation quickly turned to dread as I read the first few pages of this novel, which describe the main
DNF @ 65%

Those of you who have been my GR friends for a while know that it is unlike me to DNF a book. It's not a bad book, in fact several people in my book club liked it a great deal. This is completely on me and it is just the wrong time for me to be reading it.

Told mostly in flashbacks to the early 1980s, this coming-of-age novel focuses on Hayat Shah, a young Pakistani boy growing up in the American suburbs. Much of the plot revolves around his first crush on his 'auntie' Mina, his mother's best friend, who comes to stay with the family having fled her parents and husband in Pakistan. With Hayat's Westernised family lacking in any strong religious convictions, it falls to Mina to teach him about Islam, and a combination of youthful confusion and his ...more
Sorayya Khan
Jan 09, 2012 rated it liked it
In a post 9/11 world in which the market's interest in Islam rewards a certain interpretation of the religion, I had my suspicions when I learned of American Dervish a few weeks ago. But when I heard the author on NPR, I liked the way he spoke of writing and his motivation for the book and decided to read it. The novel is Hayat's coming-of-age story set in Milwaukee where his Pakistani parents are immigrants. It is a commentary on growing up Muslim in a particular kind of Muslim community in the ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recent-reads
This is told from eleven year old Hayet's perspective. The family are Pakistani and Muslim, but do not really practice their faith. Hayat's father has a disdain for the Pakistani community and so the family are rather insular. That changes when a family friend, Mina, escapes a bitter divorce and comes to live with the family.

Mina becomes a mentor to Hayat in his study of the Quran. What develops is a tight bond that causes Hayat to become jealous of any other person that takes Mina's attention
Feb 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Yet another book that gets rave reviews but gets a thumbs down from me. I wanted to like this, it started off pretty well, but then I got stuck. Most of the characters are just not likeable, the writing was flat at times, and I don't particularly enjoy "coming-of-age" stories. I was interested in learning about the Pakistani culture and traditions, but towards the end of the book, it became too depressing. Forced marriages for woman, brutal fathers, barbaric husbands, women who are completely ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
I want to give this book more than one star, really I do, but I just didn't like it. The whole book should have been a short story (and not a novella-y short story a la Alice Munro or Unaccustomed Earth, but a real short story) - I didn't find out any more about the characters after the first chapter and it was just conversation after conversation after conversation. Boring. Also the trope of Thing That Happened In The Past That Is Not Named Until The End is just so overused, that if you do use ...more
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Here's what I expected:
Boy is troubled. Boy struggles with conflicting value systems of an ancient religion and a modern American lifestyle. Boy undergoes various family or other personal conflicts to emerge with less-naive but still deeply personal connection to cultural heritage and defines his own relationship to his faith (perhaps influenced by a 1990's America obsessed with independence of spirit.) We all feel better, learn something, and feel more tolerant of Islam provided that the
Laura Leaney
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a tough book for me to review. Although the story is a fine one, the writing isn’t artful or fresh enough for my taste. For most of the book I felt mired in stereotypes, although the generalities (Jews are smart and sensitive, Muslim men are narrow and patriarchal, women are hysterical and shrewish) are mouthed by the characters, not the author, I can’t help but feel that the book is too much surface and not enough depth.

The story is told by Hayat Shah, a Pakistani-American, remembering
Jan 27, 2012 rated it liked it
When I picked up a copy of American Dervish, I was immediately immersed in the story and didn't want to put the book down. Ayad Akhtar writes compellingly with a great talent for pulling the reader into the story with characters so realistic and imperfectly flawed that we feel an intimate knowledge of each person therein.

American Dervish is the story of a Muslim family in America, with a great deal of reference to the Quran, the teachings of the Muslim religion and how time and maturity and
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This portrait of a family struggling with their religious beliefs and heritage was a compelling look into the idea that none of us fits into a perfect little box. I challenge any human to read a holy book cover to cover and agree wholeheartedly with every statement, as written, without interpretation.

Hayat’s upbringing demonstrates for us how difficult it is to be a member of an ethnoreligious group in a strange country. Not only is he faced with being a Pakistani-American, but he is also faced
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Ayad Akhtar is a playwright, novelist, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the author of American Dervish (Little, Brown & Co.), 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 ...more
“The secret of a happy life is respect. Respect for yourself and respect for others.” 57 likes
“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.” 9 likes
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