Hymns from the Heartland

Erik Tanner for TIME

As a Muslim child in the American Midwest, Ayad Akhtar says he felt "invisible" — a member of a minority that "nobody really understood." Even now, "people still don't have any sense of what it feels like to be Muslim." Akhtar's debut novel, American Dervish, should set that straight. A riveting and disturbing tale of a Muslim boy grappling with the mysteries of love and religion, it is now being published in 20 languages, and the global rights have fetched some $750,000. At 41, Akhtar — who previously co-wrote and starred in The War Within, a 2005 film about...

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