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American Dervish

A Novel

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


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 things he is too young to understand. Then Mina arrives, and everything changes.

Mina is Hayat's mother's oldest friend from Pakistan. She is independent, beautiful and intelligent, and arrives on the Shah's doorstep when her disastrous marriage in Pakistan disintegrates. Even Hayat's skeptical father can't deny the liveliness and happiness that accompanies Mina into their home. Her deep spirituality brings the family's Muslim faith to life in a way that resonates with Hayat as nothing has before. Studying the Quran by Mina's side and basking in the glow of her attention, he feels an entirely new purpose mingled with a growing infatuation for his teacher.

When Mina meets and begins dating a man, Hayat is confused by his feelings of betrayal. His growing passions, both spiritual and romantic, force him to question all that he has come to believe is true. Just as Mina finds happiness, Hayat is compelled to act -- with devastating consequences for all those he loves most.

American Dervish is a brilliantly written, nuanced, and emotionally forceful look inside the interplay of religion and modern life. Ayad Akhtar was raised in the Midwest himself, and through Hayat Shah he shows readers vividly the powerful forces at work on young men and women growing up Muslim in America. This is an intimate, personal first novel that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 17, 2011 – Poor Hayat Shah: his father drinks and sleeps around; his mother constantly tells him how awful Muslim men are (especially his father, with his white prostitutes ); he doesn t seem to have any friends; and he s in love with his mother s best friend, the beautiful Mina who s his mother s age and something of an aunt to him. Unlike his parents, Mina, who came to Milwaukee from a bad marriage in Pakistan, is devout, which makes sexual stirrings and the Qur an go hand in hand for the young Hayat (aside from a framing device, the story mostly takes place when he s between 10 and 12). His rival for Mina s love isn t just a grown man, he s Jewish, so along with the roil of conflicting ideas about gender, sexuality, and Islamic constraint vs. Western looseness, first-time novelist Akhtar also takes on anti-Semitism. Though set well before 9/11, the book is clearly affected by it, with Akhtar determined to traffic in big themes and illustrate the range of Muslim thought and practice. This would be fine if the book didn t so often feel contrived, stocked with caricatures rather than people. Ultimately, Akhtar s debut reads like a melodramatic YA novel, not because of the age of its narrator but because of the abundance of lessons to be learned.

Customer Reviews


Heartwarming and honest. A must read for westerners (like me). This book provides a depth of understanding and compassion for American Moslems.

Thank you Ethan Hawke!

I read an interview with Ethan Hawke in a magazine. The interviewer, who was asking him about his own writing asked him what his favorite books were and this book made his list. So admittedly, I went into this for a flimsy reason but in the end, it paid off, because without the recommendation, I may not have found this treasure. This book is written beautifully and the story brings you in immediately. While I interested and have some knowledge of Islam, you do not need either to enjoy this story. It's a classic coming of age story, of finding yourself apart from your culture and religious upbringing and how some of us never maybe never do so, thus carrying on these traditions, even if we shouldn't. Every character in this story is flawed, such as real life, which makes this story more immediate and real to the reader. And ironically, I think that the strongest person in this story, in terms of finding themselves and breaking from tradition was perhaps the most flawed. Wonderful writing and a realistic story, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, both tragic and triumphant, this had it all.

American Dervish
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Family
  • Published: Jan 09, 2012
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Print Length: 384 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings