Call me American A memoir

Abdi Nor Iftin

Book - 2018

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 g...roup 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 was filled with twists and turns and a harrowing sequence of events that nearly stranded him in Nairobi. Now a proud resident of Maine and 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.

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Subjects
Genres
Autobiographies
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2018.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Item Description
"This is a Borzoi Book."
Physical Description
310 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781524732196
1524732192
9780525433026
0525433023
Main Author
Abdi Nor Iftin (author)
Other Authors
Max Alexander, 1957- (author)
  • Under the neem tree
  • The first bullets
  • Trail of thorns
  • City of women and children
  • Arabic to English
  • The one they call American
  • Buufis
  • Wedding vows
  • Sin and punishment
  • Trapped
  • No number
  • Messages from Mogadishu
  • Little Mogadishu
  • Long odds
  • White rooms
  • Respect
  • Epilogue.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* The author was born a Muslim under a neem tree in Somalia, probably in 1985 (he's not sure of the date, since birthdays are not celebrated or even recorded in Somalia). He grew up in privation and peril—the former, thanks to terrible droughts, and the latter because of a seemingly endless civil war, which meant his life and those of his family were in constant danger. ("I am six years old and learning that nowhere in the world is safe.") As a boy, he fell in love with America, teaching himself English by watching American movies and listening to American music, earning, in the process, the nickname Abdi American. When life in Somalia became untenable, he fled to Kenya, but life as a refugee was not much better until something miraculous happened: he won a place in the American Green Card Lottery, officially titled the Diversity Visa Program (which President Trump is now attempting to discontinue). How this ultimately led him to America is a story in itself, as suspenseful as the larger survival story that is his life, one distinguished by strength, wits, perseverance, and, it must be acknowledged, great good luck. His story is absolutely remarkable and always as compelling as a novel or, perhaps, one of the Hollywood movies that he says saved his life. Consider his an essential ur-immigrant story, one that is enlightening and immediate. Abdi is an inspiration. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Having learned English by imbibing American pop songs and movies, Somali-born Iftin secretly posted dispatches to NPR and the Internet when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab took over his country. A tough path took him to Kenya, America's annual visa lottery, and finally Maine, where he works as a translator for fellow Somalis while studying political science at the University of Southern Maine. Bravo! Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Nor Iftin's experience was the "gory terrorism" of Mogadishu, Somalia, the setting of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down. His pastoral parents retreated to the city when drought decimated their herds. A brief period of prosperity soon descended into warfare with Islamic terrorist activity infiltrating the city and affection for American ways endangering one's life. Nicknamed "Abdi American," the author had a love of Western movies that was dangerous. He quickly parlayed that affinity into learning English fluently and met reporter Paul Salopek, who featured him in a 2009 Atlantic article. Opportunities for public radio reporting generated American connections that finally led him to resettle in Maine. While focusing on his life in Somalia, the horror and tribulations of his family become explicit. Sadly, the volume ends with President Trump's stance on immigration, which prevents Nor Iftin from visiting his family in Somalia and them from joining him in America. VERDICT A harrowing success story of escaping terrorism, overcoming government bureaucracy, and experiencing pure luck, this insightful debut yields an inside look at a largely forgotten conflict that continues to rage.—Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

War-torn Somalia is the unlikely incubator for an immigrant success story in this wrenching yet hopeful autobiography. Iftin was five years old in 1991 when a decadeslong civil war engulfed the Somali capital of Mogadishu; his family witnessed massacres by militias, survived death marches, and endured years of starvation. His one escape from grim reality was a movie theater where he learned English watching American action movies, and his enthusiasm for the wealth, freedom, and rough justice depicted in them earned him the nickname "Abdi American." That spelled trouble, however, when the rise of Islamic extremism brought harsh religious strictures—he was flogged for going to the beach with a girl—and attacks on anyone associated with America. A chance 2009 encounter with an American reporter got him a gig doing radio dispatches for NPR, and more Islamist threats; after his house was bombed, he fled to the enclave for persecuted Somalis in Kenya, and finally, after navigating the labyrinth of U.S. immigration rules, moved to rural Maine, where he now works as a translator. Written in limpid prose, Iftin's extraordinary saga is not just a journey of self-advancement but a quest to break free from ethnic and sectarian hatreds. (June) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Shares the author's journey from Somalia to the United States, including his early love of American music and movies, his survival under a radical Islamist group, and how he made his way to the United States using the annual visa lottery.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A young Somalian, who learned English through American pop culture uses his skills to post secret dispatches to the Internet and NPR after a radical Islamist group comes to power and until he finally wins a visa lottery to emigrate.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop and watching action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these 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 became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. Eventually, though, Abdi was forced to flee to Kenya. In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America 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 America still beckons to those looking to make a better life.