Call Me American: A Memoir

Call Me American: A Memoir

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....

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Title:Call Me American: A Memoir
Author:Abdi Nor Iftin
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Call Me American: A Memoir Reviews

  • Katie B

    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.

  • Nancy

    "My future was a mystery, but at least I was leaving hell forever." from Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin

    Abdi'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 Iftin

    Abdi'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 interview

    I won a book from the publisher in a giveaway.

  • Dan Friedman

    In his

    , 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.

    Iftin becomes known in Mog

    In his

    , 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.

    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.

    is an inspirational memoir, which shows the United States as the beacon for immigrants that it once was.

    Tragically, Iftin’s monumental memoir may be the last of its kind.

  • Will

    I received this remarkable memoir as a Giveaways winner. I want to thank Goodreads and Knopf.

    How many of us can fathom learning a foreign language from watching action movies? I can't. But that is exactly what Abdi Nor Iftin did. Growing up in war-torn Somalia, he began teaching himself English at an early age by watching films like The Terminator. His love of American culture, combined with a desire to escape a ravaged Mogadishu, led to a determination that is to be admired. Iftin’s story is ha

    I received this remarkable memoir as a Giveaways winner. I want to thank Goodreads and Knopf.

    How many of us can fathom learning a foreign language from watching action movies? I can't. But that is exactly what Abdi Nor Iftin did. Growing up in war-torn Somalia, he began teaching himself English at an early age by watching films like The Terminator. His love of American culture, combined with a desire to escape a ravaged Mogadishu, led to a determination that is to be admired. Iftin’s story is harrowing, a life lived under unbelievably brutal conditions. Frequently beaten, often facing starvation, his life was one of dodging bullets while on the run to the next hiding place. Despite the horrors depicted, Iftin manages to have a surprisingly hopeful and upbeat voice. He maintains a firm control of both his story and his tone, never allowing it to slip into what could very easily be an unbearable read. The fact that Iftin did manage to finally escape the horrors of his country and write such an eloquent and moving memoir is simply extraordinary. The odds were never in his favor and, with the current travel ban in place, impossible today.

    The New York Times Book Review interviews an author each week and a frequently asked question is, “If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?” The question itself is totally ridiculous and I wonder why it is still asked. Any author’s recommendation would have to be a toddler’s picture book. But if I could play author, my reply today would be, “

    ”. I can dream that reading a book could change the direction of this country and its immigration policies, can’t I? This is an eye-opening look at Somalia and the inspiring journey of a man who deserves to find a place here and to be called an American. Highly recommended.

  • Nicole

    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.

  • Linda

    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.

  • Mehrsa

    can't remember the last time a book made me cry this hard (maybe bridge to terabithia ?). I went all day after reading this book. It's harrowing to be reminded that life is so hard for so many people. Abdi gets a magic ticket that saves him from war, violence, and oppression--an American visa. I can relate. He won the life lottery and it makes me so sad that so many people have to leave their home country just to feel safe. Everyone should read this book and we should all work to do something a

    can't remember the last time a book made me cry this hard (maybe bridge to terabithia ?). I went all day after reading this book. It's harrowing to be reminded that life is so hard for so many people. Abdi gets a magic ticket that saves him from war, violence, and oppression--an American visa. I can relate. He won the life lottery and it makes me so sad that so many people have to leave their home country just to feel safe. Everyone should read this book and we should all work to do something about this.

  • BookOfCinz

    "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.

  • Nicole O

    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.

  • (a)lyss(a)

    "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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