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

Delacorte. Jun. 2020. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781984897114.
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.

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