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Somali immigrant and author at Left Bank Books

May 17 @ 7:00 pm


From The New Yorker: “Iftin had to endure famine, war, a precarious life as a refugee, and a visa-rejecting bureaucracy before a green-card lottery win, in 2014, enabled him to emigrate. His narrative is both panoramic and particular, full of irreverent asides, and suffused with appreciation for the humanity of others.”

~ ~ ~

The public is warmly invited to meet Somali author and immigrant Abdi Nor Iftin, author of the powerful memoir, Call Me American, on Friday, May 17 at 7 pm at Left Bank Books in downtown Belfast. Iftin’s story of his journey from childhood in Somalia at the outbreak of civil war to adulthood as a soon-to-be American citizen is a page-turner that’s been hailed as “riveting,” “wrenching yet hopeful,” “ searing” and “compelling.” Call Me American was published in 2018; Iftin’s appearance on May 7 celebrates the just-released paperback edition.

Writing in the Portland Press Herald, Frank O. Smith said “the arc of a great story doesn’t get much steeper than that of Abdi Nor Iftin. And Iftin’s memoir is at every turn a great story. It is an inspiration and a reminder, an especially timely one, of how powerful the American dream remains to legions of people across the globe, especially those caught in the grind of religious, political and tribal terror and destruction.”

Iftin was the son of nomadic herders who first fell in love with America by repeatedly watching action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and listening to Michael Jackson’s music. With uncommon perseverance, he taught himself English in extremely difficult conditions and eventually became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American – a moniker that became life threatening when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006. Desperate to make a living, Iftin used his language skills to post secret dispatches from Somalia to NPR and the BBC World Service, quickly gaining a worldwide audience.

Eventually, he was forced to escape to Kenya as a refugee. There, in an amazing stroke of luck, he won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery and risked his life multiple times to secure the necessary documents required to emigrate. It’s impossible to read Iftin’s account of arriving in America without cheering for his hard-won victory:

“I boarded Lufthansa, the biggest airplane I ever saw. . . .An American lady with her teenage daughter sat next to me. After takeoff they shut their eyes and acted like the flight was boring. . . .My heart was beating fast as the plane banked over downtown Boston and descended to Logan Airport. My face was glued to the window. . . .Even though we were going down, I felt like I was going up to heaven. When the wheels bumped on the runway, I couldn’t control myself. ‘I am in America!’ I shouted. Even the bored lady next to me found a way to smile. ‘Welcome!’ she said.”

Iftin lives in Portland where he works as an interpreter for Somali immigrants and attends the University of Southern Maine where he is studying political science.

Reservations for the free talk and signing are strongly encouraged. Please email (leftbank@myfairpoint.net) or call (207-338-9009) Left Bank Books to reserve a seat. If you can’t make the signing, the bookshop is happy to take your order and have your book(s) signed for later pick up or shipment. Left Bank Books is located at 109 Church St. in downtown Belfast, in the historic Opera House building. Ample parking is available on the street and in an adjacent public parking lot.


May 17
7:00 pm
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Left Bank Books
(207) 338-9009


Left Bank Books
109 Church Street
Belfast, ME 04915 United States
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