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Am I American Yet? with Abdi Nor Iftin

Date(s): Sunday, May 5, 2019, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Location: 
Changing Hands Phoenix, 300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013
Type(s): 
Reading
Genre and Form(s): Memoir
Cost: Free

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About this Event

Join author Abdi Nor Iftin for a community reading and book signing Sunday, May 5, 2019 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Changing Hands Phoenix (300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013).

While encouraged, RSVPs are purely for the purposes of monitoring attendance, gauging interest, and communicating information about parking, directions, and other aspects of the event. You do not have to register or RSVP to attend this event. This event is open to the public and free.

This event is presented as part of the Distinguished Visiting Writers Series from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University in partnership with Snell and Wilmer. To find more author talks and readings, visit our website at http://piper.asu.edu/events/visiting-writers

About the Book

Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop and watching action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies.

Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. Eventually, though, Abdi was forced to flee to Kenya.

In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America did not come easily. Parts of his story were first heard on the BBC World Service and This American Life. Now a proud resident of Maine, on the path to citizenship, Abdi Nor Iftin's dramatic, deeply stirring memoir is truly a story for our time: a vivid reminder of why America still beckons to those looking to make a better life. (Penguin Random House)

About the Author

Photograph of Abdi Iftin

When the civil war in Somalia began, Abdi Nor Iftin was five; he and his brother became the sole providers for the family while they also attended a madrassa. Amidst the daily shelling and the famine, Abdi had one escape: American movies and music. At neighborhood showings of RamboCommando, and The Terminator, Abdi learned of America, and taught himself English, and began to dream of a life in the United States.  

In Call Me American, Iftin recounts his harrowing, extraordinary, and uplifting story. His love of western culture and music earned him the name “Abdi American.” This became a liability when Islamic extremism took hold of Somalia. Evading conscription by al-Shabaab while secretly filing stories for NPR under penalty of death, he stayed in Somalia until he had no choice but to flee. He smuggled himself into Kenya, where a different but grinding life of hopelessness awaited. He spent days hiding silently in an apartment from raids by Kenyan police, once passing time reading The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump. And then, a stroke of incredible luck: he won the Diversity Visa Lottery.  

Now a proud and legal resident of Maine and on the path to citizenship this year, Abdi is attending a university in Maine, and working on a film about his book. He volunteers with his immigrant community in Maine, he translates for people with limited English.

Today’s America and the travel/immigration ban worry Abdi, a Muslim; as he writes, his brother, still in Kenya, is now often the one comforting him. Abdi’s dramatic, deeply stirring memoir is truly a story for our time: a vivid portrait of the desperation refugees seek to escape and a reminder of why western democracies still beckon to those looking to make a better life.

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