Maine Voices Live features 1:1 conversations between Portland Press Herald writers and notable Mainers. Audience members can experience a memorable night with a Q&A at the end. 

Abdi Nor Iftin is a reporter and the author of “Call Me American,” a memoir of his immigration to the United States.

Growing up in Mogadishu, Somalia, Iftin learned English by watching action movies. When U.S. Marines landed in the 1990s to get involved in the civil conflict, Iftin felt it was an arrival of real-life action heroes and grew fascinated with American culture. Sporting hip-hop clothes and dance moves, he became known as “Abdi American.”

In 2006, as conflict again emerged in Somalia, Iftin risked his life posting secret dispatches to NPR. He eventually fled to Nairobi, Kenya as he became a target. In an eventual stroke of luck, he won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America—which was documented on the radio show This American Life—did not come easily.

Iftin is now a US citizen. His naturalization ceremony took place in Portland on Jan. 17, 2019. He lives in Yarmouth and writes a regular column for the Forecaster. He is also working on a documentary about his life story.

Iftin will be interviewed by Portland Press Herald reporter Eric Russell.

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