On the Same Page 2020

The Jones Library is holding its 8th On the Same Page community reading program, featuring the memoir Call Me American by Abdi Iftin. The entire Amherst community is invited to read the book and participate in the related programs. A variety of programs are being offered to enrich the reading experience of this best-selling title and to encourage dialog about the themes the book presents, particularly immigration and African history

Call Me American

In Call Me American, we find a "riveting" (The New Yorker) and "highly inspiring" (Kirkus Reviews) memoir of a young man, whose parents were nomadic herders, growing up in poverty in war-torn Somalia, with a seemingly impossible dream of becoming an American.  As a child, Abdi supported his family through his wits, and learned English by watching forbidden American action movies.  Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American.  When radical Islamists rose to power, he used his language skills to post secret dispatches to NPR.  Against all odds, he reached American and is on the path to citizenship.

Reviews of 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] 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)

“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

“Absolutely remarkable and always as compelling as a novel… An essential ur-immigrant story, one that is enlightening and immediate.”—Booklist (starred review)

Obtaining a Copy

Copies of Call Me American can be signed out from the Jones Library and branches in February, requested and checked out from the C/W Mars library catalog, or purchased at Amherst Books in downtown Amherst.

Schedule of Events

  • The public is welcome at all events - it is not necessary to have read the book to attend the programs, although it is encouraged.
  • All events are free and open to the public.
  • General admission seating is offered for the author appearance by Abdi Iftin on Thursday, March 5, at the Amherst Regional Middle School Auditorium.

Tuesday, February 4 at 7:00 p.m. - Woodbury Room

Long Journey: Somali Immigrants and Refugees to the United States - Elliot Fratkin will talk about nomadic pastoralism and how this ancient way of life fares in our modern world.  He will also discuss the Somali refugee camps in Kenya and migrants to US, including Somali political participation.
Elliot Fratkin is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and African Studies at Smith College, who has researched extensively in Kenya and Ethiopia

Tuesday, February 11 at 7:00 p.m. - Amherst Room
Thursday, February 13 at 7:00 p.m. - Amherst Room

Book Discussion of
Call Me American - Join us for an in-depth discussion of our selected title, led by Jones Library librarian Linda Wentworth. All are welcome.

Tuesday, February 18 at 7:00 p.m. - Woodbury Room

Refugees in Western Massachusetts - Jewish Family Services has played a vital role in Western Massachusetts in welcoming and resettling refugees, and is nationally recognized as being a premier resettlement program, working with the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS) and the U.S. State Department. Sara Bedford will discuss their work with refugees from around the world, including Somalia.
Sara Bedford is the New American Program Director at Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts.

Tuesday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. - Woodbury Room

Book Discussion of
America for Americans - Continue the exploration of immigration issues with a discussion of this non-fiction title by Erika Lee, after the author's appearance at the University of Massachusetts on Wednesday, March 11.   Join us for an in-depth discussion, led by a Five College scholar of immigration history.  Books will be available at the Jones Library reference desk.  All are welcome.
This event is made possible by the UMass Department of History and Five Colleges, Inc.

Author Event *** NEW DATE ***

Thursday, March 5 at 7:00 pm - Amherst Regional Middle School Auditorium

** General admission seating - doors will open at 6:30 pm. **
On the Same Page... with Abdi Iftin -
Join us for this author appearance at the Amherst Regional Middle School Auditorium. Abdi Iftin will speak about the book and his experiences.

Books will be available for purchase and signing, with thanks to Amherst Books.
On the Same Page Amherst
Call Me American
Abdi Iftin

About the Author

Abdi Iftin is the author of Call Me American, which was named a 2019 Notable Book by the American Library Association and as a Library Journal Best Books: Nonfiction Winner in 2018.

Abdi Nor Iftin currently lives in Portland, Maine, where he works as an interpreter for Somalis who have immigrated to the state. Abdi was accepted to the University of Southern Maine, where he will be studying political science. He plays soccer every Saturday in a melting-pot league of Americans and immigrants from around the world.