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Abdi Nor Iftin

Author of Call Me American and immigrant rights advocate

  • About Abdi Nor Iftin

    Growing up in Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin was known as “Abdi American.” He fell in love with the United States from afar, teaching himself English by watching movies like The Terminator and listening to Michael Jackson. He cheered the arrival of US Marines in Mogadishu, wore American clothes, and learned American dance moves. But when the radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, Iftin’s celebration of Western culture made him a target. He turned to his language skills to make a living, sending secret dispatches from Somalia to NPR, and gaining a worldwide following through his broadcasts. Eventually, he was forced to flee Somalia to Kenya as a refugee.

    In Kenya, Abdi Nor Iftin had the incredible luck to win entrance to the US in an annual visa lottery. He risked his life in order to get the required documents from the US Embassy and made his escape as his fellow Somali refugees in Kenya were being attacked. Throughout, he shared stories from refugee life on the BBC World Service and “This American Life,” providing updates on his home, family, and status. Now now a proudly naturalized US citizen, Iftin shares his dramatic, deeply stirring story with audiences across the nation. From intimate glimpses into the immigrant experience to timely talks on refugee rights, Iftin encourages audiences to consider new perspectives and redefine their notions of what it means to be American.

    Abdi Nor Iftin’s work has been featured on the BBC and “This American Life,” and in The Washington Post. His award-winning memoir, Call Me American, was published in June 2018 and an Adapted for Young Adults edition in June, 2020. Iftin graduated from Boston College with a degree in Political Science in 2022. He currently lives in Portland, Maine, where he works as an interpreter for Somali immigrants, 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.

    Contact us about booking Abdi Nor Iftin for your next event. 

  • Speaking Topics

    Call Me American

    In this deeply moving talk, Abdi Nor Iftin chronicles his incredible journey from Somali refugee to American resident. A natural storyteller, he describes his numerous harrowing escapes after being first targeted in Somalia for his love of America, and then in Kenya for his refugee status. In a story that captivates audiences, Iftin questions why the world stays silent in the face of atrocity, and what it means to be an American.

  • Video

  • Praise for Abdi Nor Iftin


    Our Meet and Greet and Author Talk with Abdi was a huge success!  He was so personable meeting with patrons, and his talk was interesting and inspiring.

    The Boyden Library

    Abdi’s talk was nothing short of fantastic. Honestly, it was my favorite thing I’ve done so far at MCC. He was so eloquent, thoughtful, and down to earth. The audience loved him, as well.

    Manchester Community College

    Abdi’s presentation was fantastic. We’ve heard nothing but good things from our students…Abdi does have such a comfortable, natural style and the audience really felt connected to him. He fields questions from students as though it is the first time he was ever asked. That’s a gift.

    Illinois College

    The event was AMAZING. Despite being virtual, I think we still managed to pull off a really meaningful event. We received several notes last night that they were touched by Abdi’s story, his perspective of being a new American, and were genuinely floored by his ability to speak so eloquently. As always, it was a pleasure to work with Penguin Random House.

    Epstein Hillel School

    Abdi was wonderful! He was smart and funny, generous and thought-provoking, utterly lovable, an absolute delight.

    Canisius College

    Our event with Abdi was a huge success. His speech captivated the audience, and then he very kindly stayed to sign many books and talk with the people at the event. He has a lot of new fans!  He is such an amazing person, and I feel lucky that we were able to hear him tell his story in person. I can’t wait for his next book!

    Project Citizenship

    Praise for Call Me American (Adapted for Young Adults)

    This remarkable, nuanced story facilitates a deeper understanding of immigration today. A triumphant memoir that offers hope for Somalia’s and, indeed, America’s futures.

    Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

    An absolutely stunning survival story that is beautifully and vividly written…. Simply a terrific read.

    Booklist, Starred Review

    Young Abdi is a tremendously appealing figure in his desire to enjoy music and movies and find an alternative to the only choices Somalia offers him…. The narrative is genuinely suspenseful.

    The Bulletin, Starred Review

    Praise for Call Me American

    Iftin’s account of his journey does not mince words or attempt to soften the worst atrocities he and his family experienced. Loyal and grateful to his mother, he shows particular sensitivity to the injustices suffered by women in Somalia. Told simply and well, Iftin’s story explains the incredible bravery and hope necessary to live in the crosshairs of war and to find a way out.

    Jane Constantineau, The New York Journal of Books

    A searing memoir…that impressively remains upbeat, highly inspiring, and always educational.

    Kirkus (starred review)

    [A] wrenching yet hopeful autobiography… Iftin’s extraordinary saga is not just a journey of self-advancement but a quest to break free from ethnic and sectarian hatreds.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Absolutely remarkable and always as compelling as a novel… An essential ur-immigrant story, one that is enlightening and immediate.

    Booklist (starred review)

    Riveting… [Abdi Nor 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 New Yorker
  • Books by Abdi Nor Iftin

  • Media About Abdi Nor Iftin

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Abdi Nor Iftin travels from Maine

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