Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Call Me American: A Memoir” as Want to Read:
Call Me American: A Memoir
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Call Me American: A Memoir

4.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,058 ratings  ·  194 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
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Call Me American, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Call Me American

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,058 ratings  ·  194 reviews

Sort order
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa, somalia, 2019-read
Studying Political Science, I spent many hours learning about unsuccessful peacekeeping operations and failed states. The ultimate example: Somalia, a country shaken by war, terrorism and ever-changing tribal conflicts so violent and complicated that it makes you feel desperate reading scientific texts about it - and they are of course rather detached in language. Abdi Nor Iftin was born in Somalia and lived through all of this, and his impressive memoir is so powerful not only because he writes ...more
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
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal, this has to be one of the best memoirs I've ever read. A riveting account of life in war-torn Somalia - even if memoirs aren't usually your thing I'd implore as many readers as possible to read Abdi's story.
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
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
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
can't remember the last time a book made me cry this hard (maybe bridge to terabithia ?). I went all day after reading this book. It's harrowing to be reminded that life is so hard for so many people. Abdi gets a magic ticket that saves him from war, violence, and oppression--an American visa. I can relate. He won the life lottery and it makes me so sad that so many people have to leave their home country just to feel safe. Everyone should read this book and we should all work to do something a ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received this remarkable memoir as a Giveaways winner. I want to thank Goodreads and Knopf.

How many of us can fathom learning a foreign language from watching action movies? I can't. But that is exactly what Abdi Nor Iftin did. Growing up in war-torn Somalia, he began teaching himself English at an early age by watching films like The Terminator. His love of American culture, combined with a desire to escape a ravaged Mogadishu, led to a determination that is to be admired. Iftin’s story is ha
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Call Me American: A Memoir is a book about the importance of imagination for someone whose life is filled with little beyond physical & geographic constraints in a war-torn flyspeck of a country called Somalia. The author, Abdi Nor Iftin uses his imagination & an inner reservoir of hope & courage to transcend many barriers & boundaries, only some of which are territorial, in a landscape largely controlled by tribal warlords in what would most certainly be called a country typifie ...more
Lauren Fee
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the heaviest books I have read in a while. It’s devastatingly sad and the circumstances are unimaginable for most of us which is why his ambition and hope for the future is so awe inspiring. I couldn’t give this book less than 5 stars and I only wish there was a way to ensure more people would read this book. Abdi Iftiin’s shoes need to be walked in by more people.
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
Michele Dubois
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dear everyone: please read this book. Abdi’s story is unique because he escaped war torn Somalia and miraculously made it out within an inch of his life; Others, including his family and friends, have not been as lucky. The terror rages on across the globe in places like Mogadishu, where Abdi lived in fear of death every minute. Read this memoir to understand the brutal conditions people are desperate to escape by seeking refuge in western countries.
Abdi, with no formal education except memori
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a tribute to an extraordinary young man and to the spirit of America, our huge, messy, idealistic, and flawed home. Abdi Iftin wanted to make the U.S. his home, too, from a very young age. You can easily get an overview of the story from other reviews so I will just make some comments. Abdi's own childhood imagination and brains started him on his way from horribly war torn and oppressive Somalia to the woods and cities of Maine. The story is hair made me weep more tha ...more
Westminster Library
Often when we hear news about conflict in any of the regular hot spots around the world we pause for a second and shake our heads and maybe send good thoughts. No three minute news story is ever long enough to encompass the varying factions and shifting loyalties that make up most conflicts. In this memoir Abdi Nor Iftin uses the right blend of humor and tact to make some sharp observations about the world around him. The book covers some tough issues but is still a very quick read.

Find Call Me
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I started reading this book because my oldest friend recommended it. It piqued my interest because on the author’s ties to Maine, and because I work in humanitarian immigration relief. I was poised to give a five star review about five pages in, long before I realized the author was the subject of my favorite This American Life episode. And before I was reading it simultaneous to Humans of New York’s stories of the genocide in Rwanda, which also describes atrocities unimaginable to Americans.

Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
This is really hard to read as stories of war always are. It also really highlights the difficulties refugees face in trying to live their lives away from countries where everyday they are in danger of death. But his stories of the terrorism wrought by other refugees from Somalia in Kenya and the corruption that was rampant there also helps me better understand why governments are often so reluctant to open doors to refugees. It is just a difficult situation all around and I commend this author ...more
Jp Perkins
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book for anyone truly interested in those seeking refuge in the US today. It gives clear picture why someone would need to leave the home country that they love as well as the struggle to get passage to America. It is just one man's story, and very different from other refugee and immigrant stories. But it does shed light on the truths about this issue that we should learn more about to debunk the falsehoods being put out by the current administration.
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a story...poignant as well in these times. Very much looking forward to hearing him speak in a few weeks...
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
Genevieve Trono
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing story. I listened to Abdi Iftin's book on Audible and it is one of the most amazing non-fiction books I have ever read. It was heartbreaking and also filled with hope, and his persistence was just so inspiring.

Call Me American is an amazing addition to the American immigrant literature genre and something I hope to read more of in 2019. Before reading this I did not know a lot about Somalia and so I learned so much not only about Iftin and his journey to America but also the
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
With remarkable stories of a life that should have killed him, the author describes his willful route to the US. Teaching himself English by watching US movies--mostly of the adventure type--before Somalia turned into a bloodbath, Iftin spends his youth in survival mode and makes some crucial connections from the US who help him through the byzantine process of getting a US visa. Now in college in the US, he is teaching other refugees English and other resettlement skills. He plans to return to ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
This contemporary memoir follows a young Muslim man from childhood in Somalia to his almost miraculous arrival in the USA during years of civil war. With a candid and at times even mischievous voice, readers are treated to the enormous hardships endured by ordinary citizens when war breaks out around them. This includes lack of access to schools, missing family members, excessive hunger, and long hard work days as well as growing up with corpses on the side of the road that are being ravaged by ...more
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
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • 50 Years of Silence
  • Je vous écris de Téhéran
  • Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda
  • Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll
  • The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes
  • World War I: The "Great War"
  • Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement
  • Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945
  • The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan's Lawless Frontier
  • Andersonville Diary
  • Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future
  • Miss Ex-Yugoslavia: A Memoir
  • To Kill a Tiger: A Memoir of Korea
  • Don't Be Afraid of the Bullets: An Accidental War Correspondent in Yemen
  • Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
  • Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon
  • Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy
  • A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America's Schools