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Call Me American

A Story Behind Every Refugee

You Can Learn English by Watching Arnold Schwartzenegger

The Somali Civil War Explained

About the Author: Abdi Nor Iftin

A picture of Abdi Nor Iftin.


Abdi Nor Iftin

Born in Mogadishu to nomadic parents, Abdi Nor Iftin survived famine, war, and child soldiering. Thanks to the movies available to him, he taught himself English by watching American action films. By repeating and imitating the carefree actors, he earned himself the nickname “Abdi American”. Through guerrilla journalism, Abdi dispatched stories about his life to a series titled Messages from Mogadishu on American public media. His stories were shortlisted for Peabody awards in 2016. These stories were later picked by NPR, the BBC, and later, This America.

After surviving a bombing at his house one evening in 2009, Abdi finally said goodbye to his home country and moved to Kenya where he and his brother lived as refugees. In an amazing stroke of luck, he won entrance to the U.S. in August 2014, in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America—ending in a harrowing sequence of events that nearly stranded him in Nairobi—did not come easily.

He is now a bestselling and award-winning author based in the state of Maine and has been featured on CNN, NPR, NYT, Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. Abdi is an advocate for refugee and immigrant rights. He is dedicated to bringing people together through his stories of survival and resilience. He is currently working on a documentary based on his memoir Call Me American. Iftin graduated from Boston College with a degree in political science in 2022. He is a regular newspaper columnist for the Portland Press Herald. Iftin also works as a Somali news presenter with Maine Public Radio and as a communications specialist with Church World Service.

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