Call Me American
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.

Call Me American Details

TitleCall Me American
Author
ReleaseJun 19th, 2018
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN-139781524732196
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Cultural, Africa, Biography, Biography Memoir

Call Me American Review

  • Dan Friedman
    January 1, 1970
    In his Call Me American: A Memoir, Abdi Nor Iftin provides an indispensable and eloquent addition to the canon of American immigrant literature. Iftin adroitly relates his story of growing up in Mogadishu with parents forced to abandon their beloved nomadic life. Applying his intelligence, ingenuity, and curiosity, Iftin teaches himself English and American cultural tropes through watching American movies. ”My passion for American was ignited by Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Iftin becomes known in Mog In his Call Me American: A Memoir, Abdi Nor Iftin provides an indispensable and eloquent addition to the canon of American immigrant literature. Iftin adroitly relates his story of growing up in Mogadishu with parents forced to abandon their beloved nomadic life. Applying his intelligence, ingenuity, and curiosity, Iftin teaches himself English and American cultural tropes through watching American movies. ”My passion for American was ignited by Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Iftin becomes known in Mogadishu as “the American”, intermittently scrapes together a living by teaching English, and survives years of brutal civil wars. Through perseverance, good luck, and support from a small group of American and British journalists, aid workers, and physicians, Iftin wends his way from Somalia to Uganda to Kenya, and, eventually, the United States. Call Me American is an inspirational memoir, which shows the United States as the beacon for immigrants that it once was. ”Every time I tell my story, I am reminded how lucky I am to be here.” Tragically, Iftin’s monumental memoir may be the last of its kind.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    "My future was a mystery, but at least I was leaving hell forever." from Call Me American by Abdi Nor IftinAbdi's Somalian parents were nomadic herders of camel and goats. His mother bore battle scars from the large cats she fought while protecting her herd. In 1977, drought left his parents with no option but to go to the city of Mogadishu. His father found work as a manual laborer before he became a successful basketball star. When Abdi was born in 1985, his family was living a comfortable lif "My future was a mystery, but at least I was leaving hell forever." from Call Me American by Abdi Nor IftinAbdi's Somalian parents were nomadic herders of camel and goats. His mother bore battle scars from the large cats she fought while protecting her herd. In 1977, drought left his parents with no option but to go to the city of Mogadishu. His father found work as a manual laborer before he became a successful basketball star. When Abdi was born in 1985, his family was living a comfortable life.Also in 1977 Somalia and Ethiopia went to war marking the beginning of decades-long military and political instability. Clan warfare arose with warlords ruling Mogadishu.By the time Abdi was six years old, the city had become a war zone and his family had lost everything had fled the city. Existence became a search for safety, with starvation and the threat of death their constant companions.Call Me American is Abdi's story of how he survived. Abdi tells of years of horror and fear yet there is no anger or self-pity in his telling. He and his brother Hassam used their wiles to provide their mother with the necessities of water and a little maize and milk for meals.When Abdi discovered American movies and music and culture he fell in love with America, and by imitating the culture in the movies became Abdi American. He envisioned a life of personal freedom. He taught himself English and then educated others. He was discovered by NPR's This American Life and he sent them secret dispatches about his life.After radical Islamists took power, anything Western was outlawed. Abdi was punished if he grew his hair too long and had to hide his boom box and music that once provided entertainment at weddings. His girlfriend had to wear a burka and they could no longer walk the sandy beach hand-in-hand.Knowing he faced the choice of death or joining the radical Islamic militia, Abdi pursued every option to come to America. The process is complicated and few are accepted. He fled Somalia to join his brother at a Kenyan refugee camp where his brother had gone years before.Abdi had his NPR contacts and even letters from seven US Senators (including Senator Stabenow and Senator Peters from my home state of Michigan) but was turned down. Miraculously, Abdi was a diversity immigrant lottery winner. The required papers were a struggle to obtain when they existed at all. He had to bribe police, and transport to get to the airport. He was 'adopted' by an American family but had to learn the culture and find employment. After several years Abdi found work as a Somali-English translator and is now in law school.I read this during the Fourth of July week. I don't think anything else could have impressed on me the privileged and protected life I have enjoyed. America has its problems, and when Abdi wins the green card lottery and completes the complicated process necessary to come to America he sees them first hand.I am thankful for the personal freedoms I have enjoyed. I have never had to sleep in a dirt hole in the ground for protection or worried that by flushing the toilet soldiers would discover me and force me into the militia. No teacher ever strung me up by the wrists and whipped me. I never dodged bullets to get a bucket of water.I could go on.Somalia is one of the countries that Trump included in the immigration ban. Had Abdi not escaped when he did, he would not have been allowed to come to America.I am here to make America great. I did not come here to take anything. I came here to contribute, and to offer and to give. Abdi Nor Iftin in NPR interviewI won a book from the publisher in a giveaway.
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  • BookOfCinz
    January 1, 1970
    "Call Me American" A Memior by Abdi Nor Iftin did a number on me. I felt for Abdi and what his family went through and might still be going through. The world can be so tiring at times.... *sigh*This Memior is about Abdi, who grew up in Somalia which is in constant war. We get a first hand account what it is like living in a country that is constantly at war. The hopelessness in this book was palatable. At one point the author described that his brother felt so hopeless he had to leave. The book "Call Me American" A Memior by Abdi Nor Iftin did a number on me. I felt for Abdi and what his family went through and might still be going through. The world can be so tiring at times.... *sigh*This Memior is about Abdi, who grew up in Somalia which is in constant war. We get a first hand account what it is like living in a country that is constantly at war. The hopelessness in this book was palatable. At one point the author described that his brother felt so hopeless he had to leave. The book covers Abdi's life before and after he won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery and was granted a green card. This book is heavy and laced with violence and hopelessness. It will make you question humanity and where we went wrong but it is also required reading.
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  • Katie B
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 was under no obligation to post a review and all views considered are my honest opinion.
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    In the dictionary, as a definition to the word "optimist" should be Abdi Nor Iftin's photograph. He grew up in Somalia where he learned English by watching American movies (Arnold Schwartzenegger?) and listening to American music (Michael Jackson). He taught "American" to his friends and family. Once war breaks out in his homeland, he decides it is time for his dream - to move to America and become a citizen. His first step was to escape to Kenya where time and time again, law enforcement shake In the dictionary, as a definition to the word "optimist" should be Abdi Nor Iftin's photograph. He grew up in Somalia where he learned English by watching American movies (Arnold Schwartzenegger?) and listening to American music (Michael Jackson). He taught "American" to his friends and family. Once war breaks out in his homeland, he decides it is time for his dream - to move to America and become a citizen. His first step was to escape to Kenya where time and time again, law enforcement shake down Abdi and his brother, taking their cash instead of detaining them on a trumped (the author was horrified when the 2016 election results were known) up charges.Thankfully, he had made contact with some powerful people in the U.S. and out who couldn't always ease his way, but there were many rooting for him.Wonderful narrator, too. Recommend. Recommend. Recommend.
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  • Nicole O
    January 1, 1970
    This memoir tells the story of Abdi Iftin, affectionately known as Abdi American, who survives several civil wars in Somalia and comes to emigrate to America through grit, perseverance, and a little bit of luck. This book was extremely graphic in the way it described the horrors Abdi and his family faced, in addition to being subject to extreme poverty and abuse at the hand of his schoolteacher. It also contained some interesting tidbits, such as how one little boy from his neighborhood ended up This memoir tells the story of Abdi Iftin, affectionately known as Abdi American, who survives several civil wars in Somalia and comes to emigrate to America through grit, perseverance, and a little bit of luck. This book was extremely graphic in the way it described the horrors Abdi and his family faced, in addition to being subject to extreme poverty and abuse at the hand of his schoolteacher. It also contained some interesting tidbits, such as how one little boy from his neighborhood ended up fleeing Somalia to become a breakout star in the Tom Hanks' film, "Captain Phillips".One of my gripes with this book is, it tended to drag on during certain parts of his story. I found myself quickly skimming through certain paragraphs that I felt didn't add anything new or relevant to his life story. Also, I was left feeling unsatisfied with the last chapter in the book. There were some unanswered questions that would have wrapped up the story nicely. For example, what happened with Abdi and Fatuma?! Overall, I would recommend this book to read if you're interested in learning more about the conditions people in Somalia faced during their civil wars from a firsthand perspective. I received this ARC from Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    I had the opportunity to hear Abdi speak with Portland’s Mayor Strimling last month and was very touched by his story. I learned a lot about Somalia from this book, and my eyes were opened even more to the immigrant experience. I’m so glad Abdi shared his story and hope he’ll achieve all he hopes to in his life.
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  • (a)lyss(a)
    January 1, 1970
    "I didn't want to die for them; I wanted to live in a beautiful American city with paved roads, gorgeous women, money, cards, and jobs."I received a copy of this book from firsttoread.com in exchange for an honest review.While I learned from this book and the content is interesting something about the way it was written took me out of the story. The author shares the harrowing story of his life growing up in war torn Somalia and his desire to be an American. He shares how he survived in Mogadish "I didn't want to die for them; I wanted to live in a beautiful American city with paved roads, gorgeous women, money, cards, and jobs."I received a copy of this book from firsttoread.com in exchange for an honest review.While I learned from this book and the content is interesting something about the way it was written took me out of the story. The author shares the harrowing story of his life growing up in war torn Somalia and his desire to be an American. He shares how he survived in Mogadishu and his love of American films and trying to immigrate.The tense of the story changes in a couple places and there are times the author writes in a way that's sort of passive as if removing himself from the experience but overall it's an informative read, especially for people unfamiliar with what the US's involvement with Somalia. It's a story that will stick with you.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    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, 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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  • Angela Gibson
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.Thank you to First to Read for providing me with an advance galley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Amber Garabrandt
    January 1, 1970
    Summary:This is the story of a boy that grew up in war-torn Somalia and dreamed of the freedom of America. The land where he could talk like in the movies he watched, listen to music, dance, and dream without fear. Watching his family starve, his neighbors get killed or beaten, what drove him forward was his love for American culture- something that would often get him in trouble.When he is one of the lucky winners of a Green card- or rather, the chance to apply, he cannot believe his luck. With Summary:This is the story of a boy that grew up in war-torn Somalia and dreamed of the freedom of America. The land where he could talk like in the movies he watched, listen to music, dance, and dream without fear. Watching his family starve, his neighbors get killed or beaten, what drove him forward was his love for American culture- something that would often get him in trouble.When he is one of the lucky winners of a Green card- or rather, the chance to apply, he cannot believe his luck. With the help of a lot of friends that he met when he did stories and interviews about his life in Somalia he eventually got through all the bribes and red tape to make it to Maine. Here, he was more free and happy, but quickly noticed differences from his dream. Those back home believed he was rich now, yet he could not find a job to send back money. There were cultural differences, and the ongoing issue of being true to himself and his beliefs while adjusting to American culture and keeping both halves of himself whole. Hard hitting and heartrending, this is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the plight of a modern immigrant.My thoughts:I have no words. I finished this book at about noon and I have been floored. Told by an expert story teller, the bush of Somalia come alive as his mother’s favorite place and happy life. Even though it is far different than what he himself wants, he managed to make her story magical and focus on her intelligence and bravery. The cities, the culture, the clan wars and the civil war are all brought to life within these pages.It’s hard hitting, making the violence of the war in Somalia far more real than any half page news article can. I think that’s why I love books like this so much, really. For me, if I can’t emphasize it becomes harder for me to understand. I learn more about the world from memoirs, blog posts and even novels than I can from most news sources. Not to say that I don’t read them, I do, but I never really get a feel for what the people go through. Here it can’t be ignored.Abdi, with his love of American culture and loyalty to his family is extremely easy to love and root for. I loved the stories about his family, how he spoke of them; and I loved the stories of sitting on the dirt floor learning English by watching The Terminator. His bravery in telling his story, first in Somalia and then once he immigrated, was amazing to me. While nothing was sugar coated, he still managed to infuse the story with his own optimism and perseverance. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to know either what a modern immigrant goes through, or why someone would want to immigrate. It’s also a great showcase of a man wanting to keep his beliefs and culture while still wanting to be part of the American culture as well and how one can have it all. The American Dream, indeed. For me, this is a five star book. On the adult content scale there is a lot of violence, and language- it does, after all, take place in a war area. I would still buy this book for my niece but I consider her an older teen even if she is fifteen. I would say a parent should read it first to decide, and it would also allow them to have a great discussion afterwards! Still, let’s give it a six. I was given an eARC of this book to read from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. I am beyond grateful!
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  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    I received a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.Iftin's memoir of surviving war, poverty, and famine in Somalia to becoming a refugee is illuminating and shockingly free of any self-pity. His writing is spare and straight-forward but because so much of his story is emotionally wrenching, he doesn't need "flowery" writing to effectively convey his story. Despite the confusion and chaos of the war and many of the other situations he found himself in, Iftin's writing remains clear. His te I received a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.Iftin's memoir of surviving war, poverty, and famine in Somalia to becoming a refugee is illuminating and shockingly free of any self-pity. His writing is spare and straight-forward but because so much of his story is emotionally wrenching, he doesn't need "flowery" writing to effectively convey his story. Despite the confusion and chaos of the war and many of the other situations he found himself in, Iftin's writing remains clear. His tenacity and conviction are inspiring; at many times it would have been easiest for him to join the Islamist extremists yet he never gave up on his dream of becoming an American. His eventual arrival in America is no less captivating, and I was especially enthralled as a native New Englander familiar with many of the places he describes. This is an important story of a Muslim fleeing a dangerous country but Iftin never preaches and never projects any bitterness towards the more privileged. Best of all, it's not just an important and timely book, it is well-written and highly readable.
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  • Stephanie Nelson
    January 1, 1970
    This book was hard for me to get through at times, but that is because of the pain I felt inside when I read about the events in the author's life growing up in Somalia.Call Me American is a book written about a man, who as a young boy in Somalia already knew that he was meant for greater things. He literally was given a nickname Abdi American for his love of America, including the English language and our culture. Life was a constant struggle for Abdi and his family, but somehow he stayed stron This book was hard for me to get through at times, but that is because of the pain I felt inside when I read about the events in the author's life growing up in Somalia.Call Me American is a book written about a man, who as a young boy in Somalia already knew that he was meant for greater things. He literally was given a nickname Abdi American for his love of America, including the English language and our culture. Life was a constant struggle for Abdi and his family, but somehow he stayed strong, and kept his eye on the prize. He faced much adversity and risk in his quest to escape Somalia and get to America, but thankfully he had a great group of Americans here who were fighting for him to succeed. At this point the author's family is still living in the harsh reality of Somalia, and his brother in Kenya; but Abdi does everything he can to help to support them all financially so they are no longer starving. This is an ARC that I was given by First to Read for my honest review. This book really touched my heart, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves reading a good memoir.
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  • Elisa
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent reading to better understand Somalian history. How brave the author is to share his story.
  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    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 discuss 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.
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  • Sam Law
    January 1, 1970
    Summary:True-life story of a young Somalian Muslim man, who suffered the ravages of his home country, and emigrated to the US.Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read Plot:Young Abdi loved everything American, so much so his nickname was “Abdi American”. His early years were marred by deep poverty, born into a rural backwater of an already poor country. Although they were poor, he tells a story of a happy life. He describes his parents' wedding (the meeting of the tribes to discuss, Summary:True-life story of a young Somalian Muslim man, who suffered the ravages of his home country, and emigrated to the US.Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read Plot:Young Abdi loved everything American, so much so his nickname was “Abdi American”. His early years were marred by deep poverty, born into a rural backwater of an already poor country. Although they were poor, he tells a story of a happy life. He describes his parents' wedding (the meeting of the tribes to discuss, the present of 50 camels, etc. - a real throwback to a world I thought disappeared). Drought devastated their livestock holding, forcing the family to move to Mogadishu, where the father earned a living as a basketball player. They family had to adapt from nomadism to city life, but were doing relatively well until the civil war.Life became precarious and cheap, as Abdi faced death daily through ever-present gun battles, suffered at the hands of an abusive schoolteacher, as well as the spectres of hunger and thirst that hung over the city. He and his family had to deal with great personal tragedy as well, with the death of his little sister. He had to run the gauntlet of violent warlords, as well as escaping the clutches and empty promises of the radical Muslims al-Shabaab. He found solace in his American pop music, and somehow managed to learn English through watching movies (like the Terminator!).Abdi began sharing his life on the internet, being fully and brutally honest about how things were in Somalia. He found a loyal group of friends and supporters, with whom he shared his messages. He talked about the realities of life under extremist Muslim rule, where boys were forced to see everything through the prism of the extremist version of the Koran, and beaten soundly if they failed their “tests”, where women and girls were denied any education at all, where US Marines would one day be cheered by the locals, then mercilessly butchered and jeered by the same populace the following day. It was a chaotic, murderous life, where the slightest perceived infraction can mean torture and/or death.He details the loss of freedom, that is so taken for granted in the West, and how his dream of making it to the US sustained him even in his darkest, deadliest moments.Abdi then details his journey to the US, and how lucky he was to have had strong and loyal friends to ensure that he made it. The corruption he encountered along the way, the official and unofficial hostility and contempt that was inherent in how refugees were treated, the heartbreak of failure, loss of hope and having to start again, and how all refugees are tarred with the same brush of being terrorists in disguise.Abdi eventually arrives in the US, having applied and gotten a visa, but he is one of the lucky ones. He could as easily have ended at the bottom of the Mediterranean, or not have even made it that far. He pushes himself to assimilate, to become a citizen, and is frank about the issues and problems immigrant people face who don’t try, who remain culturally isolated from their new neighbours, and deeply miss their homeland. The immigrants have a real fear of losing their core, what they value, but there IS a need to adapt to the society that has welcomed them in. It is a fine line to walk. However, lack of communication and understanding breeds fear and distrust on all sides.What I Liked:- This is primarily about the courage and character of one brave man, who risked all and left all behind, to find a better life for himself.- The writing is raw and unadorned, clear in the horrors it describes, but his spirit remained strong throughout.What I Didn’t Like:- The author tended to third-person himself in some of the scenes – maybe they were just to unpleasant to remember and write about in the first person?Overall:This book is timely in so many ways. It shows one of the very human stories behind the faceless masses of refugees. It was not so long (70 years or so) since Europeans were fleeing the ravages of war, and as of Dec 2015, according to UNHCR, there were 65.3 million displaced people globally.It is at times harrowing, but always compelling and enlightening. It is a humbling tale, to read of the strength of character and sheer will to survive. Not only does it give a real insight into the world of the refugee, it also shows that, when they arrive in the promised land, their troubles may take on a different hue, with problems around finding jobs, suitable accommodation, etc., and the expectations from those at home that they will send money back. it is a familiar tale to Irish people, but it will resonate with refugees the world over.Call Me American is an excellent background read for those who want to get informed about the real-life issues faced by people of no power and influence, and I thoroughly recommend it.Acknowledgements:I received a free copy of this book from Penguin First To Read, in return for an honest and objective review.
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  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. Socks officially knocked off. Abdi was 6 when the war in Somalia broke out in the early 1990s, and didn't leave the country until about 2011, so he lived through a great deal of violence and survived. Close encounters with soldiers and fighters, starvation, stray gunfire, beatings from his teacher, getting kicked out of his home by his parents. Terrible stuff happened. And yet this guy is as close to happy-go-lucky as you could imagine under the circumstances. He did audio stories for NPR f Wow. Socks officially knocked off. Abdi was 6 when the war in Somalia broke out in the early 1990s, and didn't leave the country until about 2011, so he lived through a great deal of violence and survived. Close encounters with soldiers and fighters, starvation, stray gunfire, beatings from his teacher, getting kicked out of his home by his parents. Terrible stuff happened. And yet this guy is as close to happy-go-lucky as you could imagine under the circumstances. He did audio stories for NPR from first Solamia and then Kenya. Then he came to the US, finally, after years of working toward it. And yet, there is no happy ending. But he is safer here than he was. This is just an incredible story, and he takes the time to explain what was going on, so I now have a much better understanding of what was happening in Somalia over the last 30 years. I learned a lot from a patient, good-hearted teacher who states his frustrations without moping about this. What an incredible human being. I feel privileged to have read his story.I got a copy to review from First to Read.
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  • Amber
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free copy of this via Penguin’s First to Read program. From the nomad lifestyle of the author’s parents, who roamed with their livestock herds, to life in Mogadishu when his father became a basketball star, to the many years of unrest and outright warfare that followed, it paints a vivid picture of what life has been like for many Somalis over the past decades. With that context, it really is extraordinary that the author was able to learn English and make his way to the United Stat I received a free copy of this via Penguin’s First to Read program. From the nomad lifestyle of the author’s parents, who roamed with their livestock herds, to life in Mogadishu when his father became a basketball star, to the many years of unrest and outright warfare that followed, it paints a vivid picture of what life has been like for many Somalis over the past decades. With that context, it really is extraordinary that the author was able to learn English and make his way to the United States. His drive to better his life, assimilate and gain citizenship are incredible. After all he has overcome, you can’t help but root for Abdi. Sadly, the book ends on an ominous note with the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency putting the fate of this resident and so many other like him up in the air.
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  • Cynthia
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this man's account of his life growing up (surviving!) in Somalia, & his quest to escape that war torn area & become an American. This book gives some political & historical background to the warring that continues in that area of Africa & provides a window into the Somali refugee's lives......what it takes to get away & what it's like once here in the U.S. It's a quick, easy read & a straight forward/open account... & it's very interesting, making it I really enjoyed this man's account of his life growing up (surviving!) in Somalia, & his quest to escape that war torn area & become an American. This book gives some political & historical background to the warring that continues in that area of Africa & provides a window into the Somali refugee's lives......what it takes to get away & what it's like once here in the U.S. It's a quick, easy read & a straight forward/open account... & it's very interesting, making it hard to put down! It's amazing what people can survive through....& scary/horrible what people can survive through, how awful humans can treat other humans. It's a very compelling, enlightening book to read. I highly recommend it to everyone.I received this e-ARC from Penguin's First-To-Read giveaway program, in exchange for my own fair & honest review.
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  • Rachel Rooney
    January 1, 1970
    The true story of a Somali boy who dreams of becoming American. His parents were Rahanweyn, a tribe of nomadic herders. They moved to Mogadishu during a drought. Then the civil war came. The civil war began in 1991, and it is still going on. It is not until his later childhood years that Abdi becomes exposed to American cinema. He watches it closely and teaches himself English. Later that comes in handy when he meets a BBC journalist. This was a moving story. I am glad Abdi made it to America. I The true story of a Somali boy who dreams of becoming American. His parents were Rahanweyn, a tribe of nomadic herders. They moved to Mogadishu during a drought. Then the civil war came. The civil war began in 1991, and it is still going on. It is not until his later childhood years that Abdi becomes exposed to American cinema. He watches it closely and teaches himself English. Later that comes in handy when he meets a BBC journalist. This was a moving story. I am glad Abdi made it to America. I learned a lot about the Somali conflict. I hope that they can find peace soon and displaced Somali people can return home. The status of Somali refugees in Kenya was sad. I find it fascinating that the current president of Somalia has both Somali and US citizenship.
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  • Jenny
    January 1, 1970
    A stark unstated memoir of the author's life growing up in war-torn Somalia whose perseverance is inspring. Raised by nomads that moved to Mogadishu, Abdi's daily life has him facing death in various forms such as dodging bullets, hunger/thirst, and radical Muslims. His inspiration comes from American movies and pop music. I didn't know anything about this country before reading this book, so I liked that I was able to gain some knowledge from this author's perspective.Thanks to First to Read- P A stark unstated memoir of the author's life growing up in war-torn Somalia whose perseverance is inspring. Raised by nomads that moved to Mogadishu, Abdi's daily life has him facing death in various forms such as dodging bullets, hunger/thirst, and radical Muslims. His inspiration comes from American movies and pop music. I didn't know anything about this country before reading this book, so I liked that I was able to gain some knowledge from this author's perspective.Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.
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  • Lydia Vandre
    January 1, 1970
    Gripping memoir that checked all the boxes for meI really enjoyed this book. I first heard a bit of Abdi's story on This American Life. This book covers so much more about life in Somalia which I found fascinating. I never understood before how a country could arrive at such a tragic situation but Abdi as a Somali American explains it very well. I personally think this book would make an incredible movie. I hope it gets made.
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  • Bianca Smith
    January 1, 1970
    First published at Mass ConsternationI received this book for free from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. If you've read my other reviews, you'll know that if it's bad, I'll say so, regardless of how I received the book.Abdi Nor Iftin and I moved to America on the same residency visa. That’s where the similarities between us end. I have written some about my coming to America story, and in Call Me American, Abdi tells his.You may know Abdi from his citizen journalism, first while i First published at Mass ConsternationI received this book for free from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. If you've read my other reviews, you'll know that if it's bad, I'll say so, regardless of how I received the book.Abdi Nor Iftin and I moved to America on the same residency visa. That’s where the similarities between us end. I have written some about my coming to America story, and in Call Me American, Abdi tells his.You may know Abdi from his citizen journalism, first while in Mogadishu, his Somalian hometown. Then, during his escape to Kenya and becoming a refugee. He recorded messages on cheap phones; sometimes while hiding in a hole, he dug in the floor of his home. That’s where he would hide from the al-Shabaab members. They would most likely kill him for refusing to join them, and they would definitely kill him if they found the phone. I thank Abdi for his bravery and for sharing his story.I read last week that great biographies start with the parental stories, and that’s what Abdi did. He describes his parents’ meeting. Their nomadic tribes meeting up, and the negotiation for the marriage. It was 50 camels. He tells of their love for each other, and the celebrations they had in the wet season. He tells of his mother’s experience giving birth to him under a tree, surrounded by the women of the tribe, while he father wasn’t permitted to be near. It’s a matter-of-fact window into the Islamic-Believing nomadic, tribal life on Somalia.Most of Call Me American is Abdi’s childhood, teens, and young adult life. His green card win is at the end. He had tried many other ways to leave Somalia and get to America before then but was declined. He was accepted into community college but was denied a student visa. Many of his friends joined the al-Shabaab just for the food or stayed in Nairobi being chased by the police and having to pay bribes to avoid deportation.When Abdi was checking the Green Card Lottery results, I was comparing his experience to mine. I was in the processing year 2010, so we still had mailed results. I walked into my apartment to see a large envelope from Homeland Security on the coffee table. Abdi went back to the net café where he submitted his application and paid for time to check. I’m glad he had the electronic process. I don’t know how he would have received mail from America in Kenya. Abdi and I did the same calculating our numbers to estimate the interview date. His was 47,441. Mine was only 271 in a less competitive region. My interview was in January, and that was nerve-wracking enough. Abdi just scraped in before the cut-off. I’m a little envious that his medical was shorter, but I didn’t have to bribe police to let me on the bus to get there.What I love about Abdi Nor and his storytelling is how sassy he is. There’s a defiant confidence that got him into trouble but also saved his life many times. There’s also a curiosity. The way he learned English from watching smuggled Hollywood movies. He then used that knowledge to earn a living, either teaching English when it was safe to do so or to dance at weddings. Again only when it was safe. He stood up to his parents’ expectations of him becoming a cleric and made his own way. There’s such an honesty and a blazé nature to it all.It’s stories like Abdi’s that we need to hear. I don’t mind the Green Card lottery being dropped if it means more visas for refugees. If we supported refugees, then Abdi’s baby sister may not have died, and millions will not have suffered so deeply.There are many reasons to read Call Me American. You can read it to learn about life in Somalia. You can learn the refugee journey. You can discover how difficult the American immigration system actually is. Or you can read it to learn about an amazingly brave man. Just read it.
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  • Barbara
    January 1, 1970
    The beauty of a good book includes the education it offers us. Call Me American, by Abdi Nor Iftin, is a wonderful beauty that offers the world a fresh look at confinement and suppression in poverty stricken, war-torn Somalia. I felt relieved to know that this young man has escaped his brutal life in Somalia and Nairobi. The book would be wonderful for history and government classes in the United States.
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  • Erika
    January 1, 1970
    This should be required reading for...everyone. I believe it resonated with me more because the author is a year older than me, so just contrasting our upbringings really changes your perspective on life. I was humbled by this book, and educated on Somalia (and how the US played quite a large role in militarizing that nation). Read it, please.
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  • Marcela
    January 1, 1970
    My favorite book this year by far! Abdi story pulled on my heartstrings and opened my eyes to the bloody history of Somalia and Kenya. I want every American to read this book especially with what is going on in the Trump ADministration. I hope to see more books written by Adbi.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    This was a great memoir to open eyes and give a perspective about life in Somalia- it is amazing that the events are happening Now and in the recent past, it’s hard to believe that there are places with such constant unrest. Also a great book about not giving up.
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  • Kandice Poirier
    January 1, 1970
    I could not put this book down. One of the best memoirs I have ever read. Learning about this Somalian boy, and his family.. his journey to America. Incredible. Highly recommend— everyone should read this.
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent. I could barely put this book down...eagerly anticipating the end when he becomes an interpreter. I have so much respect for the author and I hope his brother and family are able to join him in the US someday. I especially liked his references to Maine and making his life in Maine.
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  • Jackie
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely unbelievable! Another amazing refugee story of hope and persistence.
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