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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. 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.


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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. 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.

30 review for Call Me American: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Studying Political Science, I spent many hours learning about unsuccessful peacekeeping operations and failed states. The ultimate example: Somalia, a country shaken by war, terrorism and ever-changing tribal conflicts so violent and complicated that it makes you feel desperate reading scientific texts about it - and they are of course rather detached in language. Abdi Nor Iftin was born in Somalia and lived through all of this, and his impressive memoir is so powerful not only because he writes Studying Political Science, I spent many hours learning about unsuccessful peacekeeping operations and failed states. The ultimate example: Somalia, a country shaken by war, terrorism and ever-changing tribal conflicts so violent and complicated that it makes you feel desperate reading scientific texts about it - and they are of course rather detached in language. Abdi Nor Iftin was born in Somalia and lived through all of this, and his impressive memoir is so powerful not only because he writes in a very sober language that has great narrative force, but also because of his perseverance: While people around him were brutally murdered and his home country blasted and shot to ruins, many others lost faith and were mentally destroyed (which seems unsurprising, regarding what they had to experience), but Iftin somehow managed to fight on, trying to survive, to escape hunger and religious indoctrination and ultimately to flee Somalia. But his point is clearly not to portray himself as a hero, but to stand up for all Somali refugees who often have to endure discrimination and are frequently neglected and overlooked by the international community - Somalia is a relatively small (19th biggest in Africa), poor country which is mostly portrayed as a harbour for terrorists and pirates. But there are millions of people in and from Somalia who just want to live in peace. Abdi Nor Iftin is one of them. Most of the book tells the story of the multiple conflicts and their repercussions during the reign of Siad Barre, the Civil war and the rise of Al-Shabaab, including the reasons for the success of the terror organization. After fleeing from a drought in the rural areas, Iftin and his family lived in Magodishu, where the author was known as "Abdi American" due to his love for Western culture and his self-taught ability to speak English - and it were these exact things that made him a target for the radical Islamists. But would the country of his dreams grant him entrance and save his life? This is such a moving and informative book, it achieves everything that the celebrated "Small Country" tries to do. Highly recommended. And if you are interested in Iftin's take on the current President of the country he loves, read his article "President Trump Betrayed My American Dream" in Time Magazine: http://time.com/5316584/world-refugee...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    A page turner of a book! Whether speaking of his upbringing in rural Somalia or in Mogadishu and then later joining his brother in Nairobi, Kenya you are mesmerized by this autobiography. Abdi Nor Iftin became a fan of American movies – the action kind – in his teenage years in Mogadishu. From his avid watching he gradually started to learn English – mind you many of the expressions he picked up were from “The Terminator” type of movies – so you can guess some of the expressions! He became a simu A page turner of a book! Whether speaking of his upbringing in rural Somalia or in Mogadishu and then later joining his brother in Nairobi, Kenya you are mesmerized by this autobiography. Abdi Nor Iftin became a fan of American movies – the action kind – in his teenage years in Mogadishu. From his avid watching he gradually started to learn English – mind you many of the expressions he picked up were from “The Terminator” type of movies – so you can guess some of the expressions! He became a simultaneous translator during movie presentations in a small house in Mogadishu where these movies were shown on the sly. At that time Mogadishu was occupied by different warring clans. Life was beyond stressful and Abdi was pulled into many different directions. He had an Islamic upbringing and was tutored in the Quran at a mosque where the Iman frequently beat his students and proclaimed that Western culture was sinful - so movies, music, independent women (as in women singing and dancing)… all were forbidden and disdained. Abdi moved warily between these two opposing ways of life, but really preferred the movies over attending the strict mosque where the Iman yelled at and beat his students for not properly memorizing passages from the Quran. Page 96 (my book) When Said Barre’s government [in Mogadishu] fell, the citizens stormed into the government arms stockpile. There were more guns in the city than people. There was more ammunition than food. It became a thing to own a gun to save your life. Most people slept with a loaded AK-47 sitting next to them. There are searing descriptions of life in Mogadishu where Abdi is constantly under violent threat and where searching for food to overcome hunger was a daily task. The author leaves his mother and sister in Mogadishu for fear of being recruited in al-Shabaab and goes to join his brother in Nairobi, Kenya. Life is no picnic there, as he settles with his brother in an enclave in Nairobi known as “Little Mogadishu”. The Kenyan police constantly round-up Somalians and extract bribes from them – otherwise they will be beaten. The level of harassment increases on Somalians when al-Shabaab starts to target and terrorize different areas of Kenya and Nairobi. After many types of applications and interviews Abdi manages to get a green card to go to the United States in a lottery process where he is luckily randomly selected. He enters the United States and it would be nice to say that all his dreams come true. He gets a lot of help from American people from the contacts he made in Mogadishu and Nairobi (this is where his English language skills helped tremendously). Abdi adapts and struggles to adjust to his dream. This is a beautifully written memoir and you always feel the positive vibrations emanating from Abdi no matter how low his situation becomes, particularly during the tough years in Mogadishu. It should be noted that only a small portion of the book at the end is devoted to his new life in the United States.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Phenomenal, this has to be one of the best memoirs I've ever read. A riveting account of life in war-torn Somalia - even if memoirs aren't usually your thing I'd implore as many readers as possible to read Abdi's story. Phenomenal, this has to be one of the best memoirs I've ever read. A riveting account of life in war-torn Somalia - even if memoirs aren't usually your thing I'd implore as many readers as possible to read Abdi's story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Ross

    The fact that Abdi Iftin is alive to tell his story after his tumultuous early life in war-torn Somalia is incredible in itself; the way his life events led him to be able to write and publish his story for a Western audience is nothing short of miraculous. Can’t recommend reading this book highly enough.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Thanks to the publisher for providing a free copy! I originally picked this up because I heard part of Abdi's story on This American Life, on an episode about how he won the visa lottery and immigrated to the United States. This memoir goes back much further - it begins with the story of his nomadic parents meeting and moving to Mogadishu because of a terrible drought, and then follows his family as war tears apart Somalia and forces them out of their home and into years of horror. It's painful t Thanks to the publisher for providing a free copy! I originally picked this up because I heard part of Abdi's story on This American Life, on an episode about how he won the visa lottery and immigrated to the United States. This memoir goes back much further - it begins with the story of his nomadic parents meeting and moving to Mogadishu because of a terrible drought, and then follows his family as war tears apart Somalia and forces them out of their home and into years of horror. It's painful to read, straightforward in its descriptions of life in Somalia but also sprinkled with lighthearted memories of Abdi and his brother and friends. Abdi is such a remarkable person (he taught himself English from Schwarzenegger and Stalone movies, what!), and his memoir is powerful and readable and thorough, a good crash course about a country and culture I honestly don't know much about. What was especially striking to me was that even though he is so determined and persevering, so much of what happens to him is entirely luck: he happens to meet a reporter who sets him up to record dispatches to international radio stations, which leads to making friends out of listeners in the US who are able to advocate for him (often unsuccessfully) from afar. An incredible story that taught me so much.

  13. 4 out of 5

    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, “ Call Me American”. 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Quo

    Call Me American: A Memoir is a book about the importance of imagination for someone whose life is filled with little beyond physical & geographic constraints in a war-torn flyspeck of a country called Somalia. The author, Abdi Nor Iftin uses his imagination & an inner reservoir of hope & courage to transcend many barriers & boundaries, only some of which are territorial, in a landscape largely controlled by tribal warlords in what would most certainly be called a country typified by excrement, Call Me American: A Memoir is a book about the importance of imagination for someone whose life is filled with little beyond physical & geographic constraints in a war-torn flyspeck of a country called Somalia. The author, Abdi Nor Iftin uses his imagination & an inner reservoir of hope & courage to transcend many barriers & boundaries, only some of which are territorial, in a landscape largely controlled by tribal warlords in what would most certainly be called a country typified by excrement, to paraphrase an American president. How Abdi manages to succeed in his desire to become an American is a most fascinating tale, told by a young man who felt that he was at heart an American before he really had much of a sense of where the United States was situated on a map of the world. As some have had their lives altered & even transformed by a book or by an intersection with someone who becomes greatly influential, Abdi Nor Iftin becomes virtually addicted to American films shown with the aid of an unreliable generator in a dirt-floored hut in Mogadishu. Yes, Hollywood has been called a "dream factory" but seldom if ever has it been more true than in the case of a Somali boy who came to feel that "all the curses of the universe had descended on my family" but through American films comes to visualize a world beyond the destitution, disease, famine & clan warfare of his native Somalia. This is the way it works for some who are in search of a dream, Abdi Nor Iftin among them: watching Arnold Schwarzenegger provides Abdi not with a ticket out of Mogadishu but with an alternate reality to contemplate & take aim at. Years before in Austria in the aftermath of WWII, Arnold Schwarzenegger became an immigrant to the United States after being uplifted by the Tarzan movies featuring Johnny Weissmuller, himself an Austro-Hungarian immigrant to America, arriving at Ellis Island in 1905 from a village in what is presently part of Romania. In my opinion, America must continue to serve as a place of refuge for contemporary Schwarzeneggers & Weissmullers, people fleeing the ravages of war, sectional violence & natural catastrophes, "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and much like Abdi Nor Iftin, in search of a dream, which by its very telling, will enhance the United States or any receiving country. Abdi's family was nomadic & carried no real sense of nationality, with one's identity rooted in a particular tribe and in his their case, a rather small & powerless tribe. After the colonial powers that had partitioned today's Somalia into zones that were Italian (the south), British (the middle & part of the northern portion) & French (the extreme north that is presently a country called Djibouti) decided to fabricate a unified post-colonial country with the Italian & British parts, only the presence of a strongman named Siad Barre, kept the many tribes under a semblance of control. With the overthrow of Barre some 15 years later, Somalia fractured and drifted into a state of regional control by various militia, ultimately becoming a "failed state" without ever having had much of an opportunity to become a successful one. Abdi's family flees to the capital of Mogadishu in search of only temporary safety as the countryside is ravaged by warring tribes & then has to flee again, back to their old & very insecure homeland when the capital becomes embroiled in almost constant warfare including suicide bombings & the attempt to force young boys into militant militias favoring one clan or another. Abdi's dad is captured & led away, his little sister dies of starvation & at age 6 he is confronted with the notion that even relative safety seems beyond the grasp of Abdi's family & most Somalis. As the sun is rising, we creep through a thorn fence & I see the bodies of a man & a woman in an embrace of death. Just beyond them I see a woman on her back crying, blood coming from her stomach, stray dogs about to feast. Then shots thud against a wall beside us and we turn & flee back to the remnant of a house. I am six years old & learning that nowhere in the world is safe. By 2008, Somalia had been at war for 17 years & drought further ravages the country but Abdi suggests that calling this living hell a "war" was too polite; instead, with a million dead & well beyond a million Somalis homeless "it is just endless gory terrorism on starving civilians who did not care which side won." Curiously, taking Koran classes, the only schooling Abdi has ever had provides him with some structure and later, having learned some English via the films he has watched + a few discarded books in that language, an older Abdi attempts to serve as an interpreter and using his own devices during a temporary lull in the battle for control of Mogadishu, even fashions himself as a teacher of English in an attempt to earn money. However, being called "the American" by some puts Abdi in even more peril. Eventually, Abdi manages to flee to Uganda & then to Nairobi in Kenya with the help of an American reporter he has met & others who see in him, a yearning that seems almost unquenchable. In time & against the longest of odds, Abdi wins an escape to safety via the "diversity lottery" and makes his way to Maine & a family willing to offer him shelter as well as safety in America. Like so very many, Abdi Nor Iftin carries with him the imprint of his native country, having left a brother in Kenya still in search of a new homeland & other family members back in Somalia who still must contend with constant uncertainty & continuing violence. But now, Abdi is able to send home remittances to assist his family back in Somalia. And even while safe in America, Donald Trump's condemnation of Muslims strikes fear in Abdi, even though as he departed for America he told his brother, "I am going to the land of the free & am done with fear". Rating this book is an almost impossible task. The story of Abdi Nor Iftin rates a 5 without question but as a literary work, it is hardly an epic effort. I recommend Call Me American, a Memoir to anyone keen to learn something about Somalia and especially to everyone who doubts what amazing people we gain by opening our borders with great care to those who desire to call themselves American. *I had the good fortune to meet Abdi Nor Iftin on October 18th, 2018 when he came to tell his story to those who filled an auditorium though the auspices of my local library. He spoke with great assurance & signed my copy of his book with the Somali words for "Good Luck", Nassib Wanaagsan. Let us wish Abbdi the same as his dream continues to unfold.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Fee

    This was one of the heaviest books I have read in a while. It’s devastatingly sad and the circumstances are unimaginable for most of us which is why his ambition and hope for the future is so awe inspiring. I couldn’t give this book less than 5 stars and I only wish there was a way to ensure more people would read this book. Abdi Iftiin’s shoes need to be walked in by more people.

  17. 4 out of 5

    (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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book left me heartbroken and hopeful, thankful for the privilege of being born an American but wanting so much for my country and our world. This is by far the best book I have read in 2020.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Grace Bird

    I could not put this book down. Abdi tells of his horrific and thrilling journey from Somalia to America with honesty and optimism. 5/5 without any hesitation.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Janelle Kuntz

    I will never hear the word 'refugee'or 'asylum' and gloss over it again...my mind will go to this book and Abdi and everyone "living" a life in these unimaginable circumstances. I needed this book. Everyone needs this book. It should be mandatory reading for communities with a large Somali population, Minneapolis. A life changer, people. I will never hear the word 'refugee'or 'asylum' and gloss over it again...my mind will go to this book and Abdi and everyone "living" a life in these unimaginable circumstances. I needed this book. Everyone needs this book. It should be mandatory reading for communities with a large Somali population, Minneapolis. A life changer, people.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    One of my favorite memoirs and maybe in my top 10 books. This book is so well written and walks the line between tragic and hopeful. I knew very little about Somali culture or history and Iftin's memoir is personal as well as providing a lot of general information. He can tell a story so well. His matter-of-fact-ness makes some situations seem hilarious and other times it works to buffer the utter horror is he describing. It's life, messy and imperfect and beautiful. There seems to have been som One of my favorite memoirs and maybe in my top 10 books. This book is so well written and walks the line between tragic and hopeful. I knew very little about Somali culture or history and Iftin's memoir is personal as well as providing a lot of general information. He can tell a story so well. His matter-of-fact-ness makes some situations seem hilarious and other times it works to buffer the utter horror is he describing. It's life, messy and imperfect and beautiful. There seems to have been some controversy because a roommate took offense to the way he was described. That's how it is with memoirs. They are one person's perspective of history. However Iftin seems to treat all parties pretty fairly. His own parents aren't always presented in the best light, but you can tell he respects them. Iftin does seem to have a bit of a modernist approach however. This shines through most when he is talking about religion. However he does also make clear he still participates in his religion to some degree. It seems this is an area he may still struggle with. Iftin's book ends without an ending. I'm so glad he released this into the world but I want more! I hope we hear more from him literarily and politically. I don't usually summarize the books I read in my reviews. I'll leave that to more adept reviewers. I only write these firstly for myself so I can look back and remember what I thought about the books I've read. But I will say I really wish I could recommend this book to everyone. What is it about? I think it's about connections. That this world is so much more connected than we could have thought and soon it will be too obvious to ever deny it. I saw today a trailer for a movie about an Indian-British boy growing up in England and loving the music of Bruce Springsteen. This is a book about a child of herders from Somalia who, displaced by war, both fueled and aided by the West, learns English from American movies and dreams to come to America to better himself only to get here, realize there are issues everywhere and keep fighting for a new dream to make the world a better place. I think the more he shares his story, the closer he is to achieving that. One last note, if you liked this then read (or listen, audiobook is better) to Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. Or vice versa, if you liked that then check out Call Me American. It has many of the same themes and even some familiar situations and types. But very different in other ways.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela Gibson

    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.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    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

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michele Dubois

    Dear everyone: please read this book. Abdi’s story is unique because he escaped war torn Somalia and miraculously made it out within an inch of his life; Others, including his family and friends, have not been as lucky. The terror rages on across the globe in places like Mogadishu, where Abdi lived in fear of death every minute. Read this memoir to understand the brutal conditions people are desperate to escape by seeking refuge in western countries. Abdi, with no formal education except memori Dear everyone: please read this book. Abdi’s story is unique because he escaped war torn Somalia and miraculously made it out within an inch of his life; Others, including his family and friends, have not been as lucky. The terror rages on across the globe in places like Mogadishu, where Abdi lived in fear of death every minute. Read this memoir to understand the brutal conditions people are desperate to escape by seeking refuge in western countries. Abdi, with no formal education except memorizing the Koran, learning survival skills from his parents and teaching himself English by watching American movies is a real inspiration for hope. The last chapter, aptly titled “Respect”, is worthy of a conversation all in its own. In it, he describes the culture clash between Somalia and Americans. How do we bridge the gap when religion, bigotry or ignorance prevent us from coexisting in a respectful and harmonious way? There’s no easy road to solving this dilemma, but Abdi is going to try! I am so very grateful to have met Abdi when he spoke at PRINT bookstore in Portland this summer. I wish him and his family the best.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    This book is a tribute to an extraordinary young man and to the spirit of America, our huge, messy, idealistic, and flawed home. Abdi Iftin wanted to make the U.S. his home, too, from a very young age. You can easily get an overview of the story from other reviews so I will just make some comments. Abdi's own childhood imagination and brains started him on his way from horribly war torn and oppressive Somalia to the woods and cities of Maine. The story is hair raising....it made me weep more tha This book is a tribute to an extraordinary young man and to the spirit of America, our huge, messy, idealistic, and flawed home. Abdi Iftin wanted to make the U.S. his home, too, from a very young age. You can easily get an overview of the story from other reviews so I will just make some comments. Abdi's own childhood imagination and brains started him on his way from horribly war torn and oppressive Somalia to the woods and cities of Maine. The story is hair raising....it made me weep more than once....a perfect storm of resourcefulness, endurance, cleverness, and almost other worldly luck brought Abdi through wave after wave of tribal and government war and terrorism to finally reach his goal: a chance to make it in America. Making it he is! He is a bottomless pit of charity, liberty, and justice for all. I wish him well as this young man continues to develop on his journey. I am proud to call Abdi American a New Englander, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks that immigration is a bad idea.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Westminster Library

    Often when we hear news about conflict in any of the regular hot spots around the world we pause for a second and shake our heads and maybe send good thoughts. No three minute news story is ever long enough to encompass the varying factions and shifting loyalties that make up most conflicts. In this memoir Abdi Nor Iftin uses the right blend of humor and tact to make some sharp observations about the world around him. The book covers some tough issues but is still a very quick read. Find Call Me Often when we hear news about conflict in any of the regular hot spots around the world we pause for a second and shake our heads and maybe send good thoughts. No three minute news story is ever long enough to encompass the varying factions and shifting loyalties that make up most conflicts. In this memoir Abdi Nor Iftin uses the right blend of humor and tact to make some sharp observations about the world around him. The book covers some tough issues but is still a very quick read. Find Call Me American at the Westminster Public Library!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I started reading this book because my oldest friend recommended it. It piqued my interest because on the author’s ties to Maine, and because I work in humanitarian immigration relief. I was poised to give a five star review about five pages in, long before I realized the author was the subject of my favorite This American Life episode. And before I was reading it simultaneous to Humans of New York’s stories of the genocide in Rwanda, which also describes atrocities unimaginable to Americans. Ab I started reading this book because my oldest friend recommended it. It piqued my interest because on the author’s ties to Maine, and because I work in humanitarian immigration relief. I was poised to give a five star review about five pages in, long before I realized the author was the subject of my favorite This American Life episode. And before I was reading it simultaneous to Humans of New York’s stories of the genocide in Rwanda, which also describes atrocities unimaginable to Americans. Abdi, I cannot thank you enough for writing such a touching, difficult, beautiful memoir. It was exactly the (ultimately) uplifting story I need to continue in my field.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This is really hard to read as stories of war always are. It also really highlights the difficulties refugees face in trying to live their lives away from countries where everyday they are in danger of death. But his stories of the terrorism wrought by other refugees from Somalia in Kenya and the corruption that was rampant there also helps me better understand why governments are often so reluctant to open doors to refugees. It is just a difficult situation all around and I commend this author This is really hard to read as stories of war always are. It also really highlights the difficulties refugees face in trying to live their lives away from countries where everyday they are in danger of death. But his stories of the terrorism wrought by other refugees from Somalia in Kenya and the corruption that was rampant there also helps me better understand why governments are often so reluctant to open doors to refugees. It is just a difficult situation all around and I commend this author for not glossing over that.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jp Perkins

    This is an excellent book for anyone truly interested in those seeking refuge in the US today. It gives clear picture why someone would need to leave the home country that they love as well as the struggle to get passage to America. It is just one man's story, and very different from other refugee and immigrant stories. But it does shed light on the truths about this issue that we should learn more about to debunk the falsehoods being put out by the current administration. This is an excellent book for anyone truly interested in those seeking refuge in the US today. It gives clear picture why someone would need to leave the home country that they love as well as the struggle to get passage to America. It is just one man's story, and very different from other refugee and immigrant stories. But it does shed light on the truths about this issue that we should learn more about to debunk the falsehoods being put out by the current administration.

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