Over the past 30-odd years, we've grown used to thinking of Iran and the United States as enemies — from the Ayatollah Khomeini dubbing America "The Great Satan" to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which has led President Obama to spearhead international sanctions and some of his Republican rivals to talk of bombing Iran.
Playwright Ayad Akhtar's debut novel, American Dervish, tells the story of Hayat Shah, a Pakistani-American boy in Milwaukee coming to terms with his religion and identity.
Ahktar says that he drew from the sensibilities of Jewish writers and filmmakers like Saul Bellow, Philip Roth and Woody Allen when thinking about how to give form to his experiences growing up as a young Muslim in the Midwest.
Under Jim Crow laws, black Americans were relegated to a subordinate status for decades. Things like literacy tests for voters and laws designed to prevent blacks from serving on juries were commonplace in nearly a dozen Southern states.