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.
For Book Clubs
Aarti Shahani’s book is destined to take its place among the finest memoirs written in recent decades―a heartbreaking, hilarious and tender love letter to the millions of people who have made their way across lands and oceans to try and find a new life in America. This book will take you on a vivid, almost cinematic journey that is both beautiful and unforgettable.Co-creator of How I Built This, Wow in the World and TED Radio Hour
This timely, bittersweet immigration story will resonate powerfully with readers.
As it chronicles immigrant tragedy and triumph, this provocative book also reveals the dark underside of the American judicial system and the many pitfalls for people of color within a landscape of white privilege. A candid and moving memoir.
A worthy addition to immigration discourse, this book is a raw and engaging glimpse into the challenges immigrant families face that are either too traumatic or mundane to land on the news.