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 Queensfrom India, by way of Casablancain 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.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Act 1 Backstay 9
Act 2 We Made It 51
Act 3 Breaking at the Seams 79
Intermission: Reporting the Case 115
Act 4 Stranger Things 131
Act 5 Stretch Goal 177
Act 6 Leaving and Finding Home 209
Epilogue: Dear Dad 239
Reading Group Guide
Why did Aarti's parents decide to come to America even though they didn't have papers? Do you think they made the right decision?
How do you think A Better Chance Inc. and Brearley changed Aarti’s perspectives and the course of her life?
What were the effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Aarti’s advocacy efforts in New York and Washington, DC?
Aarti describes the gentrification of the area on Broadway where her father and uncle had their store. Have you seen anything similar happening in areas near you?
How do you feel about Judge Blumenfeld’s criticism to Aarti: “You’re not living a life about what you were really born to do”?
How did Aarti’s relationship with her father evolve over the course of their story? In what ways did the tragedy he experienced actually increase their understanding of one another?
Why do you think Aarti became a journalist? How does her work as a journalist inform the way she shared her family’s story?
Aarti comes to question if the U.S. is her home, and her father's home. What would you say makes your country your home?
A Heartfelt memoir of a young girls life long fight against judicial injustice. After her father made the mistake of selling merchandise to the wrong people, Aarti finds herself saying goodbye to her father as he starts his sentence on Rikers Island. Using personal experience Aarti exposes the deep flaws in the immigration and judicial system, sharing the struggle in this beautifully written book.
A timely and painfully honest journey of one woman's pilgrimage with her family to the bowels of Queens, New York. Her family could be traced back to the partition in Karachi, then to Mumbai, Morocco and finally the USA, all to capture the American dream. However, the immigrant dream was far from the idealized vision they had in mind. As Aarti transitions through the years, her parents do everything they can to fit into American society but are subjected to the bias and prejudices held by the American public. Through hard work, Aarti gets scholarships to top notch private schools and colleges while trying to help her parents along the way. When her father falls on hard times, she devotes a good majority of her time trying to help him out of very difficult circumstances. She becomes an NPR reporter, exploring the plight of immigrants such as her own family. I didn't give it 5 stars because I felt she jumped around some times where I thought she should have not ended so abruptly. I also wished she had explored more of her teenage years at the Brearley School where the possible difficulties of economic disparities between students were glossed over. However, these are minor quibbles and given our current climate it is an easy important read. (less)
This book is the epitome of why I love memoirs.It's emotional, honest, eye-opening, and engaging. And while I believe it's a worthwhile read at any time, it's especially timely considering current issues in the news. I was blown away by her words and her family's story, and feel incredibly inadequate when it comes to "reviewing" Shahani's book. Because how do you critique someone's existence and reality? And while this may only be one family's experience immigrating to the United States and making their way in this country, I think it's so important to read. Becoming aware of and understanding others' experiences are what make us more empathetic people. If you like memoirs, read this book. If you like to learn about the lives of others, read this book. If you want to read a book that's going to get you right in the feels, please read this book.