Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin

Call Me American

Abdi Nor Iftin

Abdi Nor Iftin’s dramatic memoir recounts his amazing stroke of luck in winning entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, and the harrowing sequence of events on his path to citizenship.

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The incredible true story of a boy living in war-torn Somalia who escapes to America--first by way of the movies; years later, through a miraculous green card.

Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop artists like Michael Jackson and watching films starring action heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these real Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies.

Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it suddenly became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches to NPR and the Internet, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. But as life in Somalia grew more dangerous, Abdi was left with no choice but to flee to Kenya as a refugee.

In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America--filled with twists and turns and a harrowing sequence of events that nearly stranded him in Nairobi--did not come easily. Parts of his story were first heard on the BBC World Service and This American Life. Now a proud resident of Maine, on the path to citizenship, Abdi Nor Iftin's dramatic, deeply stirring memoir is truly a story for our time: a vivid reminder of why western democracies still beckon to those looking to make a better life.


Advance Galley Reviews

What a book! I fell for Abdi and his struggles. An eye opener and very educational. I recommend this book to anybody, no matter the age, ethnicity or religion!! It really helps to see the world as it is, war torn and struggling.

Call Me American is a memoir that follows the life of a young Somali man as he escapes his violent country, becomes a refugee in Kenya, then establishes himself as an American in Maine. After being obsessed with American culture for many years, and learning English, it was somehow fitting that he won the visa lottery program, and was able to escape to the United States. This memoir charts his early years, and examines the effect that living in a war zone has on one's family, well-being and chances at succeeding in life. From surviving a famine to several near misses with the militia, this is the story of a true survivor. Abdi Nor Iftin's memoir is a fascinating read about what it means to be an refugee, an immigrant, and a new American. As a new immigrant to the US myself, his story resonated with me, and his desire to become accepted, to integrate and to succeed are qualities that I see in so many who are new to this country. I look forward to hearing that his path to citizenship has been successful.

"Call Me American" stands as a poignant and timely memoir Abdi Nor Iftin. Born in a nomadic tribe in Somalia, Abdi recounts the political upheavals that shaped his life. Obsessed with American culture, Abdi gains the nickname "Abdi American". During the rise of radical Islamists al-Shabaab, Adbi flees to Kenya and eventually, the U.S. The writing is wonderful-- Iftin really draws the reader in with descriptions of Somalia's landscape and history. From living on the streets of Mogadishu to working construction in Maine, Abdi Nor Iftin shows a true hard-working spirit and it is easy to appreciate his memoir. It shows that the author has navigated both Somalian and American culture. I was fascinated reading his account. Refugees and immigration are complex and politically charged issues. Iftin covers these and shows a hopeful eye toward the future in the epilogue. Highly recommended for all adults, even those less inclined to memoirs.

I wasn't excited about reading this book, not sure I was the audience that would appreciate it. Turns out, I would highly recommend Call Me American to everyone. This memoir is a first hand account of the atrocities of living with war for more than 20 years. It discusses the complexities of civil war, one country fighting another, and the ever changing rules as warlords and terrorists exchange control, as well as the parts that both America and Russia have played in this on going war. It discusses the complexities and loss of freedoms from being Muslim to having extremist Muslims take over. It discusses some aspects that all Muslims believe that maybe we as Americans, especially women, and mothers, should not easily accept, such no education for girls and the only education for boys as being beaten to memorize the Koran. We learn about the hopes, dreams, hard work, and intervention that it takes to get out of a war torn country to the freedom of America or Europe, and the heartbreak and fear when it doesn't all come together. Abdi Nor Iftin is very honest about his mixed feelings and actions throughout his life. From desiring nothing more than coming to America and cheering the Marines that landed in Mogadishu to aid the citizens, to then cheering the warlords that shot down the Blackhawks and dragged those same Marines through the streets of Mogadishu. He also tells us how terrorists do use refugee programs as cover to commit further atrocities in countries that are trying to aid people like him. Which causes all kinds of problems for the refugees. We learn of the corruption that goes with each and every step of the refugee programs. He discusses the fact that many refugees don't want to assimilate once they immigrate to another country and the problems that can cause. While many of these topics are just touched on, it gives the reader a lot to think about. As citizens of free countries, I think we should read this book to give us a better understanding of the horrors that these war torn countries face, and understand the complexities of the terrorism that can spread and the feelings of the refugees that are accepted into our countries. Facing the facts, and getting better understanding can lead us to better solutions to any aid or succor we offer. Thank you Abdi, for an honest look at such complex issues, I'm glad that you made it to America and work so hard to assimilate while feeling the loss of your own country, you are a brave man.

This book is a memoir that teaches a current events lesson about Somalia and provides a first person account of what it truly means to live in a country of never ending war. The story of Abdi Nor Iftin's life begins in the livestock holding bush of Somalia. Drought forces his family to leave the only life his parents and their ancestor have ever known and to move to Mogadishu. The life adjustments are significant, but prosperity is reached due to the athleticism of Abdi's father. This balance is up ended once political upheaval tears the country apart. Citizens are caught in the cross fire, and the trials and worries continue for Abdi, even once he is able to immigrate to the United States. I learned so much about Somalia, Kenya, immigration, and Islam from reading this book. It's worth reading a second, even third time. Even with all of the hardships and the constant worries of survival, Abdi manages to find niches of enjoyment. It was particularly interesting to read about how Abdi was able to self teach the English language and familiarize himself with American culture. It's an incredible account.

Growing up in war-torn Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin narrowly escaped death more than a few times. Watching American movies provided a source of comfort to him and it's how he was able to learn English. But in 2006, Islamic extremists come to power and Western culture influences are not only banned but could have deadly consequences for Abdi. With the help of strangers who have been captivated by Abdi sharing his experiences on NPR and the Internet, he is able to flee to Kenya and eventually finds his way to America via the visa lottery. But does the land of the free meet Abdi's expectations? I feel like whatever I write in this review won't do this book justice. I really hope this book finds an audience because Abdi's life story is incredible and one worth reading. I read memoirs frequently, including ones that take place in war-torn countries, and I would place this book among the very best I have read in the genre. It took me on a roller coaster of emotions. His descriptions of his life growing up are heartbreaking but through it all his spirit somehow remains unbreakable. I can't say enough good things about this book and it's one I highly recommend! Thank you First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy!

I read this book early as a digital galley thanks to the First To Read program through Penguin Books. In Call Me American, Abdi Nor Iftin tells his life story, the story of a child growing up in Somalia who is enamored by American culture and hopes to someday make it to the United States. It is a remarkably moving and powerful memoir, focusing on the real events that happened during the lives of Abdi Nor Iftin and those close to him. By writing about what he witnessed in such a raw and open way, Iftin teaches individuals who are not entirely (or even partially) aware of the history of Somalia the severity of what conditions have been like there for the past quarter of a decade. It opens the eyes of readers to the importance of open mindedness and open borders to immigrants and refugees, especially those from nations that have been so politely labeled by some American politicians as “shithole countries.” Regardless of your usual reading habits, Call Me American is an important book that I cannot recommend enough. Book by Abdi Nor Iftin (abdi_iftin on twitter) To be published by Penguin Books and Penguin Random House on June 19th, 2018

 


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