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PEN Presents: Ayad Akhtar and A.M. Homes with Sarah Thankam Mathews

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and PEN America president Ayad Akhtar and Guggenheim fellow A.M. Homes discuss placing the American political and democratic system under the microscope in their latest works, Homeland Elegies and The Unfolding. How do you capture, reflect on, and critique politics in fiction? What, if any, responsibility do artists have to do so? And what are the risks involved when an artist chooses to take that leap? Moderated by National Book Award finalist author of All This Could Be Different, Sarah Thankam Mathews, this conversation explores crafting narratives in a present-day political world often described as “stranger than fiction.”


Books will be available for purchase at the event. 

Presented in collaboration with P&T Knitwear Books and Podcasts.

ASL interpretive services are provided by All Hands In Motion.


Ayad Akhtar is a novelist and playwright. His work has been published and performed in over two dozen languages. He is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Akhtar is the author of Homeland Elegies (Little, Brown & Co.), which The Washington Post called “a tour de force” and The New York Times called “a beautiful novel…that had echoes of The Great Gatsby and that circles, with pointed intellect, the possibilities and limitations of American life.” His first novel, American Dervish (Little, Brown & Co.), was published in over 20 languages.

As a playwright, he has written Junk (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Kennedy Prize for American Drama, Tony nomination); Disgraced (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony nomination); The Who & The What (Lincoln Center); and The Invisible Hand (NYTW; Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, Olivier, and Evening Standard nominations). 

Among other honors, Akhtar is the recipient of the Steinberg Playwrighting Award, the Nestroy Award, the Erwin Piscator Award, as well as fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, MacDowell, the Sundance Institute, and Yaddo, where he serves as a Board Director. Additionally, Ayad is a Board Trustee at New York Theatre Workshop, and PEN America, where he serves as President. In 2021, Akhtar was named the New York State Author, succeeding Colson Whitehead, by the New York State Writers Institute.

A.M. Homes is the author of 13 books of fiction, short-story, and non-fiction, including most recently a novel: The Unfolding. Homes’ 2013 novel, May We Be Forgiven, won the Women’s Prize for Fiction and her memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter was published to international acclaim. Her work has been translated into 22 languages. In addition to writing books. Homes is also active in television and film and serves on the Council of the Writers Guild of America East. She was Co-Executive Producer David E. Kelly’s/Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes and Falling Water on USA and a Writer/Producer on the original L WORD and has written for all the major networks and streamers. Currently, A.M. Homes is Professor of The Practice in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.

Sarah Thankam Mathews is the author of All This Could Be Different, which was shortlisted for the 2022 National Book Award in Fiction. It was also a New York Times Editor’s Choice and named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Vogue, Vulture, Los Angeles Times, TIME, Slate, and Buzzfeed. Mathews grew up between Oman and India, immigrating to the United States at seventeen.