The Idea of America

How the vision from American movies, music, and books saved my life.

“I always wondered what it would feel like to be free from terror and from the police that chased me down on the streets of Nairobi just because I was a refugee. I always wondered what the sweet freedom of America would be like. And now, it’s something that I am grateful for every single day.”

When the civil war began in Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin was five; he and his brother became the sole providers for the family and were forced to attend a madrassa run by a man they called the “Angel of Punishment.” Amidst the bullets and the beatings, Abdi had one escape: American movies and music. By watching movies like The Terminator and listening to Michael Jackson, Abdi learned of America, taught himself English, and began to dream of a life in the U.S. He stayed in Somalia until he had no choice but to flee—escaping to Kenya as a refugee, where a different but grinding life of hopelessness awaited.

And then, a stroke of incredible luck: he won the Diversity Visa Lottery.

In his memoir Call Me American, Abdi recounts his harrowing, extraordinary, and uplifting story. A vivid portrait of the desperation refugees seek to escape and a reminder of why western democracies still beckon to those looking to make a better life.

You can connect with Abdi here

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About CreativeMornings PKX

CreativeMornings PKX (Portsmouth Kittery and Beyond) is a local chapter of the global breakfast lecture series for the creative community founded by Tina Roth Eisenberg (@swissmiss). We meet once a month on a Friday morning 8:30 – 10 am. Every meeting will feature a local speaker on the month’s topic and is free and open to the public – breakfast snacks & drinks to be provided.

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