Call Me American: The Extraordinary True Story of a Young Somali Immigrant
Call Me American: The Extraordinary True Story of a Young Somali Immigrant

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Annotation: Adapted from the adult memoir, this gripping story follows one boy's journey into young adulthood and offers an intimate... more
Catalog Number: #219638
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
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Special Formats: Hot Title Hot Title
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 272
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 1-9848971-1-X Perma-Bound: 0-7804-8399-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-9848971-1-4 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-8399-6
Dewey: 921
Language: English
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 8 Up Born six years before the beginning of the Somali tribal civil war, the author grew up in the city of Mogadishu. Iftin's parents had lived nomadic lives before having children, raising camels, and living off the land. In urban Mogadishu, Iftin's schooling consisted of a rigorous study of the Koran; he endured corporal punishment by his teacher for imperfect memorization. As a preteen, he taught himself English by sneaking into a makeshift cinema that screened American action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. He became obsessed with American culture, translating movies into Arabic for his peers, which gained him the nickname "Abdi American." As the war raged on and the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab gained power, Iftin's fascination with the Western world made him a target. He pursued the seemingly unattainable dream of leaving Somalia. After years of paperwork, bribery, secret dispatches via the BBC, and a very unlikely turn of fate, he found himself on a flight to America. Throughout this heartrending memoir, Iftin's voice remains straightforward and frank but not unfeeling, highlighting the searing reality of his journey. His story is told with humor and optimism that balance the sadness of his story. The challenges he faced upon reaching the United States provide a unique critique of the imperfect notion of the American Dream. VERDICT A first purchase for all teen collections. This important memoir adapted for young adults is devastating, inspiring, and ultimately hopeful. Allison Staley, Lake Oswego P.L., OR
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Somali-born Iftin presents a narrative of his journey from a war-torn homeland to his current life in Maine.The story begins with the catastrophic drought and war of the late 1970s that interrupted his young parents’ carefree and wealthy nomadic life in a lush region of south-central Somalia. Neither they nor the country ever managed to recover as one cycle of conflict led to another, raging on until the present day. These waves of violence reduced everyday Somalis’ lives to ones of chronic poverty, displacement, uncertainty, and fear but failed to extinguish hopes or dreams. Iftin, who was probably born in 1985, and his beloved brother schemed moneymaking enterprises together, skipping school to sell snacks to moviegoers. Under the noses of religious authorities, he arranged secret rendezvous with his first crush. Given the circumstances, Iftin’s boyish escapades involved a level of daring that maintains suspense. Later, as a college student in Mogadishu, he recorded reports for NPR’s The Story despite potentially life-threatening repercussions from al-Shabaab. Chief among Iftin’s dreams was to live in America, his impressions of the country fed by black pop culture and American movies, which did not prepare him for the complex racial realities that he encountered and recognized as a form of tribalism when he eventually made it to the U.S. This remarkable, nuanced story facilitates a deeper understanding of immigration today.A triumphant memoir that offers hope for Somalia’s and, indeed, America’s futures. (glossary) (Memoir. 12-18)
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School Library Journal Starred Review (6/1/20)
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 7-12
Lexile: 900L

Adapted from the adult memoir, this gripping story follows one boy's journey into young adulthood and offers an intimate account of modern immigration.

Abdi Nor Iftin grew up amidst a blend of cultures, far from the United States. At home in Somalia, his mother entertained him with vivid folktales and bold stories detailing her rural, nomadic upbrinding. As he grew older, he spent his days following his father, a basketball player, through the bustling street of the capital city of Mogadishu.

But when the threat of civil war reached Abdi's doorstep, his family was forced to flee to safety. Through the turbulent years of war, young Abdi found solace in popular American music and films. Nicknamed Abdi the American, he developed a proficiency for English that connected him--and his story--with news outlets and radio shows, and eventually gave him a shot at winning the annual U.S. visa lottery.

Abdi shares every part of his journey, and his courageous account reminds readers that everyone deserves the chance to build a brighter future for themselves.

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