SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Back by popular demand, Somali and Maine author and immigrant Abdi Nor Iftin returns on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 5:30 p.m. for an online presentation sharing his immigrant experience hosted by the Southwest Harbor Public Library.
Iftin’s biography “Call Me American” is the true story of his survival in war-ravaged Mogadishu, Somalia, and his journey to America. When the civil war in Somalia began, Abdi Nor Iftin was 5; 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 an escape: American movies and music. At neighborhood showings of “Rambo,” “Commando” and “The Terminator,” Iftin learned of America, taught himself English and began to dream of a life in the United States.
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, passing time reading memoirs and watching more movies. He had a stroke of incredible luck when he won the Diversity Visa Lottery.
In June, Iftin adapted his acclaimed autobiography into a young adult version and School Library Journal has named it one of the Best Books of 2020. He is now a legal resident of Maine and an American citizen who advocates for refugee rights. To register for this virtual talk and receive a link to the Zoom presentation, call (207) 244-7065 or email [email protected]