‘American Dervish’ is chosen for summer reading program

Joshua Farmer

Ayad Akhtar's ‘American Dervish’ was selected for the 2013 Appalachian State University's Summer Reading Program. ‘American Dervish’ is an entertaining coming-of-age story set in the Muslim household and community Akhtar grew up in.All incoming students will read “American Dervish” by Ayad Akhtar for the 2013 Appalachian State University Summer Reading Program.

Akhtar said he was “really delighted and very honored” to have “American Dervish” selected for the program.

“I always felt like it would be a great book for people, for young folks to read,” he said. “Not really young, but people who are still asking the big questions. Getting into college, being in college, that’s kind of the time when you ask really big questions about life.”

Because the story is set in a Muslim household and community and features a Muslim narrator, “there is sometimes the perception that the book may not be as familiar to folks as it ends up being when they read it,” Akhtar said.

“I’m hoping that people will read the book and find their own sort of point of connection with it because that’s really why I wrote it,” he said.

Akhtar said he hopes that readers have a good experience with the book, and that he wants his work to give pleasure, but also to be guided by the pursuit of truth.

“I hope the readers fall in love with some of the characters in the book even if those characters are flawed, and they are,” Akhtar said. “All the characters in the book are very flawed. That personal connection can be channeled into other things that can happen, connections that they can make in their own lives whether they be connections with faith or connections with politics, what’s going on in the world today, but I want it all to start from a place of engagement – a place with love.”

Clark Maddux, director of Service-Learning at Appalachian and the Community Together and interim Chair of Appalachian’s Summer Reading Committee said that “American Dervish” fits all criteria for a summer reading book.

“The book is highly readable, but there are some very uncomfortable elements in it that will require incoming first-year students to confront their own notions of morality, their beliefs and their ideas about culture and religion,” Maddux said.

Maddux hopes students are able to see their own youth in the story of a Pakistani-American boy and that they will learn about what we all share as human beings in spite of our different cultures and religious beliefs, he said.

Maddux said the book appeals to a “broad range of students” through its connection to multiple areas of study.

Senior journalism major and president of the Muslim Students Association Lena Aloumari said she is enthralled that “American Dervish” was chosen.

Aloumari said that she personally has always felt conflicted between her Muslim heritage and traditions with the surrounding American society and culture. Aloumari said that she feels “American Dervish” will address many of the same emotions and thoughts that Muslim-Americans, like herself, experience every day.

“Hopefully students will read this book and find parallels between their lives and the lives of the characters in this story, and eventually, other people across the world in general,” Aloumari said.

The book is “an immensely entertaining coming-of-age story set during the early 1980s among the Pakistanis in the author’s hometown, Milwaukee,” according to the book review in The New York Times.

Story: STEPHANIE SANSOUCY, Senior News Reporter

Photo Courtesy: NINA SUBIN