Contemporary Writers Series Welcomes Abdi Nor Iftin

October 1, 2019


BUFFALO, NY – The Canisius College Contemporary Writers Series will welcome acclaimed author Abdi Nor Iftin to campus on Thursday, October 24.  Iftin will read from his memoir, Call Me American, at 7:00 p.m. in the Montante Cultural Center located at the corner of Main Street and Eastwood Place.  He will then host a question and answer period followed by a reception and book signing.  The evening is free and open to the public.

Described by Publishers Weekly as “an extraordinary saga,” which “is not just a journey of self-advancement but a quest to break free from ethnic and sectarian hatred,” Call Me American tells the true story of Iftin growing up in war-torn Mogadishu.  He learned English by watching American action movies and his love of American culture – film, hip-hop music and fashion – was so great that he became known in Mogadishu as Abdi American. 

When the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it became too dangerous to celebrate Western culture.  Desperate to make a living, Iftin used his language skills to post secret dispatches from Somalia.  He found an audience of worldwide listeners, as his dispatches were featured on the BBC’s World Service and NPR’s “This American Life.”

Eventually, Iftin was forced to flee Kenya.  He won entrance to the United States through the annual visa lottery and is now a proud resident of Portland, ME where he attends the University of Southern Maine and works as an interpreter for Somali immigrants.  Iftin is also pursuing a path to U.S. citizenship.  Call Me American received star reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and was an ALA Notable Book of the Year. 

Founded with a grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation and continued through the Peter Canisius Distinguished Teaching Professorship Program, the Contemporary Writers Series is generously supported today by the Hassett, Scoma and Lowery Endowments and with the cooperation of The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Just Buffalo Literary Center, the Center for Urban Education and Talking Leaves Books.

One of 27 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York.  The college celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary during the 2019-20 academic year, marking 150 years of Jesuit education and leadership in the city of Buffalo and Western New York.