Title: Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares
Author: Aarti Shahani
Publisher: Celadon Books
On Sale Date: 10/01/2019
Formats: Hardcover, Ebook
Here We Are is a heart-wrenching memoir about an immigrant family’s American Dream, the justice system that took it away, and the daughter who fought to get it back, from NPR correspondent Aarti Namdev Shahani.
The Shahanis came to Queens—from India, by way of Casablanca—in the 1980s. They were undocumented for a few unsteady years and then, with the arrival of their green cards, they thought they’d made it. This is the story of how they did, and didn’t; the unforeseen obstacles that propelled them into years of disillusionment and heartbreak; and the strength of a family determined to stay together.
Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares follows the lives of Aarti, the precocious scholarship kid at one of Manhattan’s most elite prep schools, and her dad, the shopkeeper who mistakenly sells watches and calculators to the notorious Cali drug cartel. Together, the two represent the extremes that coexist in our country, even within a single family, and a truth about immigrants that gets lost in the headlines. It isn’t a matter of good or evil; it’s complicated.
Ultimately, Here We Are is a coming-of-age story, a love letter from an outspoken modern daughter to her soft-spoken Old World father. She never expected they’d become best friends.
Being a girl was not all downside. It afforded me freedom in a key way: because my father did not expect me to have a career, he did not pressure me to follow in his footsteps. My visits to his store were infrequent. Even though he could use a lot more help, he didn’t pressure me that way.
That meant when I turned sixteen, legal working age, I could forge my own path. With help from Brearley, I set out to get the summer job of my dreams.
The Fred F. French Building is an art deco skyscraper on Fifth Avenue.
The entryway is dipped in gold: revolving doors, mailbox, elevators, radiators—every corner is like an Indian bride’s neck. I was here for my first job interview. It wasn’t for manual labor—cleaning floors or serving food (though Mom, who’d done that work, would have been very proud). It was a job that came with a desk, a computer, and a view. I hit the gold button for the 22nd floor.
“Welcome to Squadron, Ellenoff, how may I help you?” the receptionist greeted me. She was black, the only dark face I spotted besides mine. This place was the adult version of Brearley, with even fewer people of color.
“I’m here to see Elliot Sagor,” I said, unsure if I was supposed to hand her my résumé. She nodded for me to have a seat in the waiting area.
“I’m here for a job.” I offered this detail she didn’t ask for.
Join NPR correspondent Aarti Shahani on tour for her upcoming memoir, HERE WE ARE: American Dreams, American Nightmares, on sale October 1—a heart-wrenching story about an immigrant family’s American dream, the justice system that took it away, and the daughter who fought to get it all back.
Aarti is currently a tech reporter based in the Silicon Valley, but this is her family’s story—and how their American dream turned into a nightmare when her father’s shop was used as a front by the Cali drug cartel.
On tour, Aarti will discuss her family’s path to America, the unraveling of their “American dream,” the problems they encountered with the U.S. criminal justice system—plus, why these issues still matter today.