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Call Me American: A Memoir
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Call Me American: A Memoir

4.5  ·  Rating details ·  133 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
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.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 19th 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Dan Friedman
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: win-book
"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
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
"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
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 ...more
Nicole O
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs
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
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
"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 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
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
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, ...more
Angela Gibson
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, history
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
Amber Garabrandt
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing

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
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I received a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Iftin's memoir of surviving war, poverty, and famine in Somalia to becoming a refugee is illuminating and shockingly free of any self-pity. His writing is spare and straight-forward but because so much of his story is emotionally wrenching, he doesn't need "flowery" writing to effectively convey his story. Despite the confusion and chaos of the war and many of the other situations he found himself in, Iftin's writing remains clear. His te
Stephanie Nelson
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was hard for me to get through at times, but that is because of the pain I felt inside when I read about the events in the author's life growing up in Somalia.
Call Me American is a book written about a man, who as a young boy in Somalia already knew that he was meant for greater things. He literally was given a nickname Abdi American for his love of America, including the English language and our culture. Life was a constant struggle for Abdi and his family, but somehow he stayed stron
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent reading to better understand Somalian history. How brave the author is to share his story.
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sam Law

True-life story of a young Somalian Muslim man, who suffered the ravages of his home country, and emigrated to the US.

Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read


Young Abdi loved everything American, so much so his nickname was “Abdi American”. His early years were marred by deep poverty, born into a rural backwater of an already poor country. Although they were poor, he tells a story of a happy life. He describes his parents' wedding (the meeting of the tribes to discuss,
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Socks officially knocked off. Abdi was 6 when the war in Somalia broke out in the early 1990s, and didn't leave the country until about 2011, so he lived through a great deal of violence and survived. Close encounters with soldiers and fighters, starvation, stray gunfire, beatings from his teacher, getting kicked out of his home by his parents. Terrible stuff happened. And yet this guy is as close to happy-go-lucky as you could imagine under the circumstances. He did audio stories for NPR f ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a free copy of this via Penguin’s First to Read program. From the nomad lifestyle of the author’s parents, who roamed with their livestock herds, to life in Mogadishu when his father became a basketball star, to the many years of unrest and outright warfare that followed, it paints a vivid picture of what life has been like for many Somalis over the past decades. With that context, it really is extraordinary that the author was able to learn English and make his way to the United Stat ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this man's account of his life growing up (surviving!) in Somalia, & his quest to escape that war torn area & become an American. This book gives some political & historical background to the warring that continues in that area of Africa & provides a window into the Somali refugee's lives......what it takes to get away & what it's like once here in the U.S. It's a quick, easy read & a straight forward/open account... & it's very interesting, making it ...more
Rachel Rooney
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
The true story of a Somali boy who dreams of becoming American. His parents were Rahanweyn, a tribe of nomadic herders. They moved to Mogadishu during a drought. Then the civil war came. The civil war began in 1991, and it is still going on. It is not until his later childhood years that Abdi becomes exposed to American cinema. He watches it closely and teaches himself English. Later that comes in handy when he meets a BBC journalist.

This was a moving story. I am glad Abdi made it to America. I
A stark unstated memoir of the author's life growing up in war-torn Somalia whose perseverance is inspring. Raised by nomads that moved to Mogadishu, Abdi's daily life has him facing death in various forms such as dodging bullets, hunger/thirst, and radical Muslims. His inspiration comes from American movies and pop music. I didn't know anything about this country before reading this book, so I liked that I was able to gain some knowledge from this author's perspective.
Thanks to First to Read- P
Lydia Vandre
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gripping memoir that checked all the boxes for me

I really enjoyed this book. I first heard a bit of Abdi's story on This American Life. This book covers so much more about life in Somalia which I found fascinating. I never understood before how a country could arrive at such a tragic situation but Abdi as a Somali American explains it very well. I personally think this book would make an incredible movie. I hope it gets made.
Bianca Smith
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First published at Mass Consternation

I received this book for free from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. If you've read my other reviews, you'll know that if it's bad, I'll say so, regardless of how I received the book.

Abdi Nor Iftin and I moved to America on the same residency visa. That’s where the similarities between us end. I have written some about my coming to America story, and in Call Me American, Abdi tells his.

You may know Abdi from his citizen journalism, first while i
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The beauty of a good book includes the education it offers us. Call Me American, by Abdi Nor Iftin, is a wonderful beauty that offers the world a fresh look at confinement and suppression in poverty stricken, war-torn Somalia. I felt relieved to know that this young man has escaped his brutal life in Somalia and Nairobi. The book would be wonderful for history and government classes in the United States.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading for...everyone. I believe it resonated with me more because the author is a year older than me, so just contrasting our upbringings really changes your perspective on life. I was humbled by this book, and educated on Somalia (and how the US played quite a large role in militarizing that nation). Read it, please.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book this year by far! Abdi story pulled on my heartstrings and opened my eyes to the bloody history of Somalia and Kenya. I want every American to read this book especially with what is going on in the Trump ADministration. I hope to see more books written by Adbi.

Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A relevant story about being an immigrant. Abdi’s resilience and charm helped him survive the unimaginable horror of war in Somalia but his arrival in the Unites States has also not been plain-sailing.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a great memoir to open eyes and give a perspective about life in Somalia- it is amazing that the events are happening Now and in the recent past, it’s hard to believe that there are places with such constant unrest. Also a great book about not giving up.
Kandice Poirier
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I could not put this book down. One of the best memoirs I have ever read. Learning about this Somalian boy, and his family.. his journey to America. Incredible. Highly recommend— everyone should read this.
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. I could barely put this book down...eagerly anticipating the end when he becomes an interpreter. I have so much respect for the author and I hope his brother and family are able to join him in the US someday. I especially liked his references to Maine and making his life in Maine.
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