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Avi and his twin sister were born in Brooklyn, New York to Joseph Wortis, a psychiatrist, and Helen Wortis, a social worker. When he was a year old, his sister gave him the nickname “Avi”. Two of Avi’s grandfathers were writers, and one grandmother was a playwright. In interviews, he recalled his mother reading to him and his sister every night, and going to the public library on Fridays. He is also the first cousin of the Academy Award-winning actor Alan Arkin.
Avi’s parents transferred him from Stuyvesant High School to Elisabeth Irwin High School, a smaller private school. There, he studied with a tutor, Ella Ratner, whom he credits for his writing success. He struggled in school due to suffering from dysgraphia, a writing disorder.