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Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  732 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Here We Are is a heart-wrenching memoir about an immigrant family's American Dream, the justice system that took it away, and the daughter who fought to get it back, from NPR correspondent Aarti Namdev Shahani.

The Shahanis came to Queens--from India, by way of Casablanca--in the 1980s. They were undocumented for a few unsteady years and then, with the arrival of their gree
Hardcover, 245 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Celadon Books
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jv poore
I want to be Aarti Shahani when I grow up. Not just adult Aarti, author of this exquisite memoir, but the young girl that, after exhausting all other avenues, wrote directly to the judge presiding over her father’s case. So often, in fact, that the judge called her his “pen-pal”. In a way, that sums up her essence. In no way does it encapsulate her whole-hearted determination or accomplishments.

Ms. Shahani shares her story, alongside her father’s, generously and honestly. Here We Are: American
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author writes about her family, the Shahanis, who moved to Queens from India, stopping in Casablanca on the way. At first they are undocumented, but then they receive green cards. Aarti is attending an elite Manhattan prep school on scholarship, when her dad gets into some legal trouble by mistakenly selling goods to a drug cartel.

Gosh. There are so many things about this book I loved. First of all, what it’s all about: the complexity in immigrant families and the stories we don’t hear, alon
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Aarti Namdev Shahani's true story of her family's coming to the USA, is a hard one to read, even knowing that her family was so much "luckier" than many other similar families. The Shahani's were struggling before they came to the US, although it's sort of funny that they were running from her dad's very overbearing family more than from political aspects of their country. Once in the US, undocumented at first and then with green cards, the family member who struggles the most is Shahani's fathe ...more
Monika Sadowski
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much and it made me very emotional because I am immigrant myself. I came to this country when I was 24 years old. My parents struggled the same way that Aarti parents did. But because of this whole experience we became stronger people and sky is the limit:) Very well written memoir by #aartinamdevshahani, I could feel the strong connection between Aarti and her father, and other members of the family. Author also talks about how justice system is broken and corrupt specially ...more
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares is a compelling, heart-wrenching memoir by NPR Correspondent Aarti Namdev Shahani.
It is the story about an immigrant family's American Dream, the justice system that took it away, and the daughter who fought to get it back.
The Shahani family arrive in Queens, NY from India through Casablanca in the 1980's. It is the first hand account of an undocumented person and the eye-opening obstacles they must endure. It is difficult to imagine the struggl
Connie G
Aarti Nandev Shahani, a compelling storyteller and a correspondent for NPR, tells about the difficulties and opportunities experienced by her immigrant family. The family traveled from India to Casablanca where she and her siblings were born. They moved to the United States, and soon received their green cards. Aarti was a talented student who received scholarships to a prestigious prep school and university. The Shahani family was full of hope that they were on the way to living the American dr ...more
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Thanks to MacMillan for the ARC at BEA 2019, and to Aarti Shahani for signing my copy!

When my friend and I, who are both South Asian, were getting this book signed at BEA we were kinda stunned. It's rare you see a desi writer, especially in something that isn't in the sciences. Shahani asked both of us where in the homeland we were from (I'll never get tired of the excitement I feel when I say my family is from Gujarat and that actually means something to the person I'm talking to), and she told
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to MacMillion for providing a copy of this book at BEA 2019 and thank you to Aarti Shahani for signing my copy!

I've loved to read ever since I was young. I would look to books and book characters as my form of escapism and have been able to live hundreds of lives that in no way reflect mine. To find myself in stories I would latch on the character traits or other aspects, ignoring how their culture and skin color would never match mine. And especially when it comes to memoirs, I've al
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt like I was given a front seat at a table that I have never sat at before…and I truly felt honored to be there. This is the story of the Shahani family, who came from India, through Casablanca, to Queens, New York. It’s a first hand, poignant account of what happens when undocumented people land on US soil, how undocumented people are treated, what is at risk for undocumented people, what happens to become documented, what life is like after you are document ...more
Dr. Manu
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In today's America, so many of us have an Immigrant Story. Those of us who identify as "desi" almost always can relate to each other on the stories of our parents arrival to this country and our upbringing. What this book and this author accomplish is a miraculous feat: a first-hand poignant account of what has previously been the untold reality of the Immigrant Story in the US. The struggles, the opportunists that prey on immigrant fear, the desire of immigrants to band together in community, t ...more
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
i just finished this incredible book in one sitting and i am full on sobbing. i feel so moved and i am so grateful for this book. amazing woman, family, writing, and story. pls read
Roxana Moussavian
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Here We Are" is one of the most heartfelt, poignant books I have ever read. It is raw. It is human. It is painful. It is funny. It is REAL.

I first of all praise the author for her courage in writing this book. For allowing her readers an insider look into what she and her family had to go through - the injustices of the legal system (sometimes, unfortunately, it's not about the truth, it's about working the system), the impact on her family, and how it shaped her life. It was clear in reading
Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating memoir written by Ms Shahani detailing her family's immigration from India to New York. She clearly communicates her personal experiences while also providing a unique view of immigration and the problems with the current system. The entire book was very eye-opening to me, because I'm about as far from this experience as I could possibly be, but the author paints such a vivid picture that I was able to come to an understanding of her life.
The part where she is attempting t
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shahani’s book is well-written and thought-provoking, but it works better as a memoir than as a political treatise. Shahani tells us at one point that her defining attitude toward the U.S. is rage— and it shows. For much of the book, Shahani seems angry at everything associated with America: at the criminal justice system, the immigration system, at interviewees who give her their time, and at the rich girls who enjoy elite schooling even though she too is receiving the same elite education. At ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When it is hot as heck outside and there is nothing cool to do but reading as everything else makes you end up a sweaty mess, it is the perfect day for a speed reader.

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

A heartfelt memoir about the immigrant experience from NPR correspond
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a free copy of the book.

This book is the epitome of why I love memoirs.It's emotional, honest, eye-opening, and engaging. And while I believe it's a worthwhile read at any time, it's especially timely considering current issues in the news.

I was blown away by her words and her family's story, and feel incredibly inadequate when it comes to "reviewing" Shahani's book. Because how do you critique someone's existence and reality? And while this may only be on
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I have to say this book was extremely interesting and heartfelt. You can feel the author's emotions in many parts of the book and tell that it comes out as a story she felt was extremely important for her to tell. It really does a good job of showing you what it's like being involved in the immigration system and the hardships so many families in this country have to go through.

The only reason I give it 3 stars and not more is simply because I'm not really a fan of reading memoirs and at times I
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book really spoke to me on so many levels -- as a first-generation American, as a first-generation professional, and as someone whose family has also been impacted by the criminal justice and immigration systems.

But don’t get me wrong. This is not a wonky policy book. It is a powerful story about one family’s journey, told in an honest, raw, funny, and heartbreaking way. And what a remarkable journey it is! I don’t want to spoil it, but part of what makes this book so great is the way Aart
Geetha Vallabhaneni
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Here We Are" is a poignant, heart wrenching memoir that shines an intelligent and investigative light on how our immigration and justice systems work. The book and the author could not have emerged in a better time than now, when America is taking a sober look at its systems and assessing its identity and values as a nation of immigrants. Her family's story and her compelling and powerful voice will ring through the hallways of American history when future generations walk through them to under ...more
Amanda Gatt
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don’t tend to read non-fiction often, but timing is everything and I’m incredibly grateful that Celadon Books sent me an advanced copy of Here We Are!

Aarti Shahani is an NPR correspondent who bravely shares her family’s immigration experience from India to Queens, NY. She reveals not just her coming-of-age story, but an insiders view of a first-generation American whose family has been impacted by the criminal justice and immigration systems. Needless to say, this memoir is incredibly powerf
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to hear the author speak at Library Journal Day of Dialog. She was such an engaging and interesting speaker that I started reading her book the minute I got home. It was really good. REALLY good. So honest and eloquent. I am grateful that she decided to share her family’s story, and thankful that I was able to hear her speak.
Ankit Gupta
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was one of those books that was so excellent but also made my want to throw everything at a wall and scream every few minutes. It's one of those rare books that manages to be personal and intimate, but also wide-ranging in the commentary it offers about the world (or in this case, mostly America) more broadly. Here were a few things I took away from this (spoilers) that I'm still fully processing but that are on my mind

1) The stories about immigration are need to escape the tight narratives
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
A journalist shares the story of her immigrant family’s journey from their birth country to the United States. She speaks with frankness about the double standards in the justice system and reveals telling details about the immigration process. As she works through the normal and unique challenges of growing up, she forms a stronger bond with her father. Author Aarti Namdev Shahani shines a light on many of the problems immigrants face in the fairly solid but overly long memoir Here We Are: Amer ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
“Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares” is NPR reporter Aarti Shahani’s memoir about her father’s experiences with the US legal and deportation systems, as well as Shahani’s later advocacy work with immigrants facing imprisonment and deportation. I’ve heard Shahani’s reporting on NPR and that name recognition, coupled with a topic that is more relevant today than ever, compelled me to request this book; I hoped to come away from reading it with a better understanding of the intricaci ...more
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
A timely and painfully honest journey of one woman's pilgrimage with her family to the bowels of Queens, New York. Her family could be traced back to the partition in Karachi, then to Mumbai, Morocco and finally the USA, all to capture the American dream. However, the immigrant dream was far from the idealized vision they had in mind. As Aarti transitions through the years, her parents do everything they can to fit into American society but are subjected to the bias and prejudices held by the Am ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
This book is so important--Shahani is a compelling writer and is able to capture the ages and voices at which she was as she writes about being the daughter of ethnic Indian immigrants from Morocco. At this point, she's very educated and aware, but as I read, I experienced the confusion that the family experienced as they tried and failed to navigate the legal and immigration systems. Despite their inherent intelligence and drive, they fall prey to our legal system and suffer greatly and unneces ...more
Abby Johnson
In this timely and horrifically relevant memoir, NPR journalist Aarti Shahani looks back at her family's struggle with immigration and the US legal system. When she was a teen, Shahani's father was convicted of money laundering and served time in prison, thus rendering his green card revoked and making him susceptible to deportation at any time. Readers interested in immigrant experiences or viewers heartbroken by the latest season of Orange is the New Black's ICE storyline should pick up this m ...more
Leslie M.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting and eye-opening memoir about the author and her family and their journey of being undocumented immigrants. The author is now a journalist. she documents her experiences, which show the flaws in the immigration system and the judicial system. Shahani delves into the question of who really belongs in America, which is a poignant question in today's society. This is a well-written and thought-provoking book.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy, but I wasn't required to
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
A Heartfelt memoir of a young girls life long fight against judicial injustice.

After her father made the mistake of selling merchandise to the wrong people, Aarti finds herself saying goodbye to her father as he starts his sentence on Rikers Island.

Using personal experience Aarti exposes the deep flaws in the immigration and judicial system, sharing the struggle in this beautifully written book.
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