Title: Call Me American
Author: Abdi Nor Iftin
Genre: memoir, autobiography, cultural, history
Is this part of a series? No.
Published: June 19th, 2018
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.
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!
The book is out, have you read it?
Link to book: