Title: Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares
Author: Aarti Shahani
Publisher: Celadon Books
On Sale Date: 10/01/2019
Formats: Hardcover, Ebook
NPR Silicon Valley Correspondent Aarti Shahani shares the story of her immigrant family: shopkeepers who got a taste of the American Dream, and the American nightmare.
After arriving in New York City in the 1980s, the Shahani family opens a small electronics store. Aarti, their youngest child, wins a scholarship to one of Manhattan’s most elite prep schools. They see themselves well on their way to the American Dream, until their fortunes turn. When they mistakenly sell watches and calculators to the wrong people—members of the Cali drug cartel—the family gets caught in a legal case that destroys them, incrementally, over the course of 15 years.
Immigrant Daughter is the hearing the Shahani family never had, despite all the time they spent being judged. Aarti’s father never recovers from the humiliation. And Aarti, who has the chance to leave and live a better life, forever feels singularly defined by his (and their) crisis. She’s torn between moving on and looking back, between the adventure in her soul and the melancholy in her heart.
This family saga is full of colorful characters: a feisty mom who’ll take sewing shears to anyone who threatens her blood; a big brother, caught between the Old World and New, who agrees to an arranged marriage; a big sister who refuses to lose her sense of humor, even in the cells of Rikers Island.
As we follow the Shahanis’ extreme ups and downs, Here We Are becomes a fascinating insider account of the elusive nature of legality and of the deep schism in American culture by which the “deserving” are deified and the “undeserving” demonized, at times relentlessly.
Ultimately, Here We Are is a coming-of-age immigration story, a love letter from a daughter to her father.