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A Timely Immigrant Story

August 27, 2018

Kerry Pettis Bookwoman

Call Me American: A Memoir by Abdi Nor Iftin

Abdi is a Somali, born to nomadic herders (camels and goats) and living a happy life in the African bush. But several years of severe drought force his family to retreat to Mogadishu where they live hand-to-mouth.

Abdi adapts well, and discovers American culture through music and films. He becomes adept at speaking English and gives himself the nickname “Abdi American.”

But civil war between various ethnic factions eventually drives the family to Nairobi, Kenya, and refugee camps.

A chance contact with an American journalist leads to more opportunities for Abdi. A group of Americans forms “Team Abdi” with the hope of eventually getting him to the United States.

Abdi works hard to get the required paperwork for a student visa, but is turned down. He learns about the American Green Card Lottery, a totally random chance to get a free pass into the US.

Amazingly, after much difficulty, Abdi wins. When reams of paperwork have been completed, he flies to Boston. Upon landing he shouts, “I am in America!”

He finds a small Somali community in Maine, where his sponsoring family lives. He begins his new life but he ruefully discovers: “Nothing is easy, even in America.”

This is a story of hope, perseverance, and courage. It is a timely immigrant memoir.

Kerry Pettis is a retired elementary school teacher and children’s librarian who has lived in Broomfield since 1975. Reading is her favorite occupation.

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