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PEN Presents: Ayad Akhtar and Alexandra Schwartz

graphic for Ayad and Alexandra's event

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and PEN America president Ayad Akhtar will be in conversation with New Yorker staff writer Alexandra Schwartz. Drawing from their writing careers, which together span genres from playwriting, screenwriting, journalism, criticism, and fiction, the two will explore a wide range of questions focused on storytelling and the process of literary creation, as well as life in the theater seen from both the playwright and critic’s perspective. They will also discuss the role of the writer in the face of recent challenges to the freedom to read in the United States, and the mounting threats to democracy and global free expression today. Akhtar is a playwright, novelist, and screenwriter, whose most recent novel Homeland Elegies was a Finalist for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal. Schwartz was the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing for 2014. See more event details, here.



Ayad Akhtar headshotAyad 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. As a playwright, he has written JunkDisgraced, The Who & The What, and The Invisible Hand. Among other honors, Akhtar is the recipient of the Steinberg Playwright 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.

headshot of Alexandra SchwartzAlexandra Schwartz has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2016. She is the magazine’s co-theatre critic, and writes on a variety of other topics, from literature to coöperative grocery stores. In 2014, she won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, awarded by the National Book Critics Circle.

Introductory Remarks

Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf is PEN America’s senior director of literary programs. She oversees curation, production, audience building, and strategy for a range of programs and initiatives honoring literary excellence, featuring American and international authors and artists. Formerly, she was the manager of public programs at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, and produced a year-round schedule of panel discussions, performances, film screenings, and symposia spanning the history and culture of the global Black experience.

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