Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Refugee Realities

In his 2018 memoir Call Me American, Somali refugee Abdi Nor Iftin describes the life that he fled during Somalia's civil war and his long journey to America.  Talented at languages and lucky enough to win the visa lottery, Iftin is now an improbable student at the University of Southern Maine.  

Call Me American was named by Oxfam as one of "19 books to help you better understand poverty."  Others include Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah, and Evicted, by Matthew Desmond. 

Iftin's story is particularly pertinent as the United States "slow-walks" refugee applications, admitting far fewer refugees in 2018 (about 22,000) than in prior years (an average of 79,000), despite a worldwide refugee crisis of enormous proportions.  Iftin's tale has a happy ending, but his story makes clear the human stakes for individuals whose efforts to escape violence and attain some sort of refugee or immigrant status are less successful.  As Iftin told the New York Times, "Against all the narratives coming from the White House and the president, this book shows the determination and risks I undertook as a refugee to come here to live in peace, work hard and, most importantly, become an American."

In the excerpt here, Iftin recalls the day when American troops arrived in Somalia to provide humanitarian aid.


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