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Summer Common Reading Program

Summer Common Reading Program

"Call Me American" A Memoir by Abdi Nor Iftin

Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop and watching action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies.

Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. Eventually, though, Abdi was forced to flee to Kenya.

In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America did not come easily. Parts of his story were first heard on the BBC World Service and This American Life. Now a resident of Maine and a proud citizen of the United States, Abdi Nor Iftin’s dramatic, deeply stirring memoir is truly a story for our time: a vivid reminder of why America still beckons to those looking to make a better life.  

Purpose of the Summer Common Reading Program

The IC summer common reading program is designed to introduce new students to the intellectual life of Illinois College. The goals of the program are to stimulate discussion and critical thinking surrounding topics of contemporary relevance, to enhance the connection between students, faculty and staff, and to provide a common experience.

The Assignment

All first-year students are expected to complete the common reading over the summer. As they read, students will also complete a note-taking assignment to be turned in the first day of their seminar class. This will prepare them to begin writing their first essay under the guidance of their seminar professor during the first weeks of classes. Details of the program will be introduced to students and their family members during the READY, Set, Go! registration days.

Anxious about getting started on your first assignment for college? Watch this quick video from IC's Lead Academic Coach, Nikki Overcash!

Community Connection - Read with us!

Over 150 continuing students, staff and faculty have "opted in" to the summer reading program and will read the book over the summer. They have also pledged to come to lead and participate in events related to the book.

Check out our Community Testimonials!

More About That

"Abdi the American" on This American Life

Listening to this episode of the NPR radio show This American Life is a great way to help this book come alive. You might consider listening to it before or after reading the book. Your family members may enjoy listening to it with you as a way to connect with you as you begin your new academic adventure!

  • "Abdi the American" (episode of This American Life, February 7, 2020). This radio show first captured Abdi’s story in 2015, when he was living in Kenya as a refugee and trying desperately to obtain a U.S. visa. This rebroadcast update of the episode includes an exciting, significant development in his life >> LISTEN