Cover Image: Here We Are

Here We Are

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Member Reviews

A very honest and at times heartbreaking view into a family's journey from India to the US in search of the American Dream.  The story is told by Shahani who is an NPR reporter and she does a fabulous job portraying the struggles her family had to endure working towards that dream as well as the many wins they experienced.
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This is both a heart warming and heart view of the immigrant story of their journey to and journey in America.  I want everyone to read this to get a view of what it is to become American.
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Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares is a compelling, heart-wrenching memoir by NPR Correspondent Aarti Namdev Shahani.
It is the story about an immigrant family's American Dream, the justice system that took it away, and the daughter who fought to get it back.
The Shahani family arrive in Queens, NY from India through Casablanca in the 1980's. It is the first hand account of an undocumented person and the eye-opening obstacles they must endure. It is difficult to imagine the struggle they faced against seemingly insurmountable odds.
I was deeply moved by the unconditional love between daughter and father as they navigate the complexities of life in America.
Highly Recommended!

Thank you to NetGalley and Celadon Books for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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Aarti Shahani's Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares is a true, honest depiction of her family's immigrant story in America. It is true that each immigrant’s story is personal and unique, all need to deal with the complexity of being an immigrant in America. Very interesting and insightful story.
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“Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares” is NPR reporter Aarti Shahani’s memoir about her father’s experiences with the US legal and deportation systems, as well as Shahani’s later advocacy work with immigrants facing imprisonment and deportation. I’ve heard Shahani’s reporting on NPR and that name recognition, coupled with a topic that is more relevant today than ever, compelled me to request this book; I hoped to come away from reading it with a better understanding of the intricacies and issues of the US immigration system from someone with first-hand experience. And I did—Shahani’s father’s story is heartbreaking, and what he endured in prison and then under the threat of deportation that hung over him most of his life in the US is undeniably powerful and enlightening reading.

My problem with the book was with Aarti Shahani herself, who I found a rather unlikable narrator. Her father’s experience in the US may have been horrific, but Aarti herself received full scholarships to some of the best schools in the country (Brearley High School, The University of Chicago and Harvard). Yet the book contains lines like these, describing the so-called Desi (slang for someone of South Asian descent) lunch table at UChicago: “In college, the Desi Table was a collection of J.Crew T-shirts who lived off their daddies’ credit cards and breathlessly gossiped about who got into McKinsey and who didn’t. Not my cup of chai.” In a book where one of the main messages is the danger of stereotyping people based on where they come from, how they dress, what their immigration status is, etc, this reduction of her fellow classmates to “a collection of J.Crew T-shirts”—especially when their “daddies’ credit cards” could very well have been the source of the scholarship funding for Shahani’s own top notch education—is hard to swallow. It’s a shame that Shahani felt it necessary, here and elsewhere throughout the book, to undermine her very powerful story with this sort of snark.

Thank you to NetGalley and Celadon Books for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
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Here We Are is a moving memoir, which, though it took me a while to finish, was engaging and thoughtfully written. A worthwhile read and a glimpse into a different experience that was educational as well as memorable.
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First thank you to net galley for the arc. This was such a compelling read about how the Shahani family came to America.  The book read like fiction and at times I truly wished it was as some of the troubles the family went through especially Aarti's father I wish that story was fiction instead of a true story.  I enjoyed how hard Aarti worked on her father's case while still being in school including being the judge in the case's penpal and later meeting with him again and going over her father's case with him.  

I don't want to spoil the story too much but please read this story it shows an immigrant story that we don't hear about too often and it was such an enjoyable read!
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Aarti Shahani's Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares is a brave, honest, painful, gut-wrenching look at the American immigrant experience. Through the author's eyes, this memoir simply yet eloquently sheds the image of the idealistic embrace of Lady Liberty and replaces it with the stark reality of how race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status influence American citizenship and incarceration. A stunning read.
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There is a lot being written lately about immigrants, some fiction and others non-fiction, but this one reads like fiction but it is very real.  And it's not a recent immigrant story, it begins in 1980 and follows through current.  There is a lot going on in this book and sometimes it seems to drag but at other times I was riveted and kept reading to find out more about what happened.

There were parts of the book that were heartbreaking like when the father and uncle go to prison and other parts that were joyous and uplifting.  Having been born and raised in the USA, I have no concept as to what it means to be an immigrant. legally or otherwise, and this book gave me that concept.

I thought it was well done and a good portrait of being an immigrant and the effect that it has on the lives of those same immigrants.
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A journalist shares the story of her immigrant family’s journey from their birth country to the United States. She speaks with frankness about the double standards in the justice system and reveals telling details about the immigration process. As she works through the normal and unique challenges of growing up, she forms a stronger bond with her father. Author Aarti Namdev Shahani shines a light on many of the problems immigrants face in the fairly solid but overly long memoir Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares.

As the child of Indian immigrants, Aarti Shahani lives a life of contradictions. Aside from skin color, her home looks nothing like that of the other kids. When she gets admitted to one of the most elite high schools in Manhattan, her life becomes further divided into two factions. The conversations that challenge her on an intellectual level during the day don’t seem to have any place in her family at night. 

Her fractious relationship with her father, too, bothers Aarti, despite her efforts to brush off her emotions. He fought for her with his own mother, walking out on Aarti’s grandmother when the “burden” of Aarti’s gender became too much to bear. Yet when he and Aarti’s mother migrate to the United States, it is Aarti’s mother who becomes Aarti’s greatest champion. Her father finds the cracks in Aarti’s veneer; her mother and sister fill them.

The irony is not lost on Aarti, then, when she takes up the battle cry after her father’s incarceration in prison on Rikers Island in New York. In a terrible, made-for-movie turn of events, Aarti’s father and her uncle are found guilty of selling electronic items to a prominent drug cartel. After all he does to achieve his American dream, including sweeping streets, Aarti’s father finds himself inside one of the worst nightmares this country has to offer.

As if going to prison isn’t enough of an ordeal, Aarti and her family members discover another complication: for immigrants, going to prison often means deportation. After her uncle is sent back to India, Aarti becomes determined not to let the same happen to her father. She begins educating herself on immigration policies, becoming an activist in the process, and finding her way back to her father and her roots.

Author Aarti Namdev Shahani tells her story in straightforward prose; she doesn’t mince words in sharing her father’s experiences or her own. Non-South Asian readers may shake their heads in shock or horror at some of the stories Shahani shares. For many South Asian readers, Shahani’s litany of woes will sound familiar. 
Shahani brings to light revelatory information on the deportation of legitimate green card holders after their release from jail. Like many children born and raised in this country, she’s ignorant, initially, of this loophole in immigration policies. When her father’s future comes into question, however, she plunges into the reality of those policies and fights back as hard as she can. At one point, she begins writing letters to the judge presiding over her father’s case. Anything to find a way to keep her father in the U.S.

At some point, though, the book becomes less about her father’s struggle as an immigrant and more about Shahani’s own successes and failures. Her outrage at the treatment her father and so many other immigrants receive is palpable, but that outrage begins to fade into the background as Shahani navigates the struggles of her own life. Readers follow her through her activist days, her exploration of various careers, and her romances. While interesting, these mini stories feel a little like they’re padding the main narrative.

The book feels a little too long. It would have worked well at a much shorter length and with some of the less prominent stories summarized or even taken out altogether, particularly when they start with fanfare and then lose some of their principal characters (such as her brother’s wife, who seems to figure largely in the family for a while but then disappears late in the book.) While compelling, Shahani’s story might have packed an even greater dramatic punch at novella length.

Readers unfamiliar with the immigration process or its shortcomings will find this book fascinating. I recommend they Borrow Here We Are.
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NPR journalist Aarti Namdev Shahani shares her family’s harrowing story on how one immigrant can live the American dream while another---specifically her father— lived the American nightmare in "Here We Are". Facing betrayal by the American legal system as well as by fellow Indians who they trusted, her father still faced possible deportation. As if that was not enough, duplicitous in-laws would physically tear their family apart.

Shahani reminds us how each immigrant’s story is personal and unique. Her parents really didn’t have a homeland, as they were uprooted from their birthplace in current-day Pakistan during the 1947 Partition of India. Her father lived in Lebanon, Algeria and Morocco—where Aarti was born-- before coming to the United States. Still it was her mother who embraced the cultural and religious diversity in America. Also, for the first time in all her travels, she was able to re-create herself and become more than a wife.

The author also shares her personal feelings about the effects of the 9/11 attacks, activism and her personal life. It is done with heartfelt emotion that readers will appreciate even if they never experienced what she and her family did. A unique memoir that I highly recommend.

The complete review will be posted on UnderratedReads on Oct. 28, 2019
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At times, painful and heartbreaking to read. Aarti Shahani is a talented storyteller, and her story is one that all of us need to know.  Shahani deftly weaves together her family's story with the contextual details we need to know in order to appreciate the complexity of being an immigrant in America.
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This is an eye-opening memoir about the challenges of being an immigrant in America, the road to gaining citizenship, and our justice system. It's a powerful book about a family that is determined to make their way. It's also a story about the relationship between a daughter and a father as they navigate the complexities of the American Dream. Moving and insightful.
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This book is incredible. It is also heart wrenching and I did not want to hear what it had to say but I kept reading and when I finished I was so glad I read it. I was also so sad about what happened to Aarti Namdev Shahani, and her family. This is an autobiography and it is also the tale of I am sure many many immigrants who have to go through what Aarti and her family did.

The sad part of this, is that it started in the 80's and went on through the bombing of 9-11 and on to thirty years of her life. In this time she lived the corruption and the unfairness of our legal system, by which we are all judged.

This book also tells of how ICE came about and I personally was shocked. My question after this are we, who are Americans, what rights of ours is taken away through the justice system.

This was a very thought provoking account and I won't soon forget it. The compassion I feel after this book is endless. I gave this book 5 stars.
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I was very moved by the story of the author's family.  I was able to share in their joy,  laughter, tears and hardship.  The Shahani family's courage and determination to fight back against the  unfairness of American immigration policies is to be admired.  I would highly recommend this book!
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A compelling story that will educate readers about the nightmare the immigrant experience in the USA has become.
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Here We Are is a well-written glimpse into both the criminal justice system and the life of immigrants in the United States. I learned a great deal about the author's specific circumstances and the general state of immigration in this country at the moment, as well as about how things have and have not changed through the years. Recommended.
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Aarti came to America by way of Morocco where her family landed after Partition in India.  As with so many, her parents wanted a better life for themselves and their three children.  Her parents spoke a half-dozen different languages and they were optimistic that their skills would be needed in America.  They landed in Queens, where “it is an under appreciated fact of this country that so many poor people from so many other countries can converge, live alongside neighbors who speak different languages and pray to different gods, and yet tribal warfare does not break out.”  Employment opportunities were nonexistent and so her mom created a babysitting service that brought in quick cash while her dad struggled but finally developed a business with his brother that was successful, but only because a drug cartel was laundering money through it, something they were oblivious to.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and Uncle ended exiled from American, but not before an expensive trial and imprisonment that was 375% longer than the judgment awarded.  And thus began my education about deportation of immigrants.  For instance, even though in possession of a green card, ICE can accuse them of a crime and since they’re not citizens, they’re not assigned an attorney and can’t afford to hire one but can be jailed with no end date.  And as much as it’s a hot topic in today’s news, it’s not new.  Washington’s attack on immigrants began in 1996 when President Clinton signed two bills that turned deportation and sentencing into mandatory minimums.  “Judges couldn’t judge.  Families like mine would get tossed out in a rubber-stamp hearing.”  I thought I knew American better than I do; I’m disappointed.

And in the middle of her family’s chaos that came after the imprisonments, Aarti was awarded a scholarship to an exclusive girls school in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which changed her life overnight.  Suddenly she was in the company of girls who have closets in multiple houses instead of one shared closet, also shared with cockroaches.  She went from a world of survival to a world that was big, that debated big questions of the time with great leaders like RBG, whom she actually met on a field trip.

Years later as a journalist Aarti met the judge from her father’s trial.  He volunteered that her father’s lawyers had given him bad advice that got him the prison sentence that he didn’t deserve.  She didn’t ask him the question that was on my mind.  How come if you’re a judge and you see injustice, you don’t speak up?  One thing I did learn is that American was the first country on earth to put birthright citizenship in the Constitution.  

I don’t like to write reviews longer than ones that I want to read, so it’s time to stop even though I underlined heavily and have plenty more to say.  Clearly Aarti wouldn’t be an NPR news correspondent if she weren’t eloquent, and she is that.  This reads easily on a subject that most of us know little about, and that needs to change.  Read it.
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This true story recounts the life of the author, an immigrant from India who fights to keep her father from being deported, thanks to various missteps in the US judicial process. Along the way she becomes an immigrant rights advocate, a side job to her career as a business tech journalist. The story is heart-wrenching, showing just how convoluted our immigration system has become and how it has turned on the very people that were once the backbone of our country. Those that want to "send them back" should read this book and see first hand the destructive path that we have set ourselves on in this century. I highly recommend this book.
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This is an interesting memoir about the author and her family and their journey of being undocumented immigrants. The author is now a journalist. she documents her experiences, which show the flaws in the immigration system, and well and the judicial system. Shahani delves into the question of who really belongs in America, which is a poignant question in today's society. This is a well-written and thought-provoking book.
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