Ayad Akhtar was born in New York City and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His play Disgraced won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. His latest play Junk: The Golden Age of Debt won the 2018 Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History and was nominated for Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Lighting Design in 2018. He is the author of American Dervish, published in over 20 languages worldwide and a 2012 Best Book of the Year at Kirkus Reviews, Toronto Globe and Mail, Shelf-Awareness, and O (Oprah) Magazine. As a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for The War Within. He has been the recipient of fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo, as well as commissions from Lincoln Center Theater and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is a graduate of Brown University and received a Master’s of Fine Arts in film directing from Columbia University. He joined the PEN America Board in 2015.