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Here We Are

American Dreams, American Nightmares (A Memoir)

Aarti Namdev Shahani


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (9/30/2019)
Paperback (10/6/2020)


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.

Praise For Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (A Memoir)

"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."
—Guy Raz, co-creator of How I Built This, Wow in the World and TED Radio Hour

Included in Library Journal's list of Best Books 2019.

"This timely, bittersweet immigration story will resonate powerfully with readers."
Publishers Weekly

"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."

Celadon Books, 9781250204752, 256pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

About the Author

Aarti Namdev Shahani is the author of memoir Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares. She is a correspondent for NPR based in Silicon Valley, covering the largest companies on earth. Her reporting has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, a regional Edward R. Murrow Award, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Her activism was honored by the Union Square Awards and Legal Aid Society. She received a Master's in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, with generous support from the university and the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. She completed her bachelor's degree in anthropology at the University of Chicago. She was among the youngest recipients of the Charles H. Revson Fellowship at Columbia University and is an alumna of A Better Chance, Inc. Shahani grew up in Flushing, Queens—in one of the most diverse zip codes in the country—and believes every American should visit her hometown to understand what makes America great.

Conversation Starters from

1. 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?

2. How do you think A Better Chance Inc. and Brearley changed Aarti’s perspectives and the course of her life?

3. What were the effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Aarti’s advocacy efforts in New York and Washington, DC?

4. 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?

5. 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”?

6. 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?

7. Why do you think Aarti became a journalist? How does her work as a journalist inform the way she shared her family’s story?

8. 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?