Ayad Akhtar is an American-born, first-generation Pakistani-American from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An alumnus of the Graduate Film Program at Colombia University, he is the author of numerous plays and screenplays. He was star and co-writer of The War Within, which premiered at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival and was released internationally. The film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay and an International Press Academy Satellite Award for Best Picture. His stage play, Disgraced, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013. American Dervish is his first novel.