Here We Are

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Member Reviews

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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An Indian family finds it way eventually to America.  They start to build a better life following the American dream getting green cards and working to citizenship. Through a serious of misadventure and  poor legal advice the father gets on the wrong side of immigration and lives in a perpetual state of fear of deportation. His daughter  (a NYTimes journalist) details the trials and tribulations of the many years  and what they went through. Its also a story being played out throughout  America still.  Very human story that will bring the people involved to the fore.
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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.
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This book is so important--Shahani is a compelling writer and is able to capture the ages and voices at which she was as she writes about being the daughter of ethnic Indian immigrants from Morocco. At this point, she's very educated and aware, but as I read, I experienced the confusion that the family experienced as they tried and failed to navigate the legal and immigration systems. Despite their inherent intelligence and drive, they fall prey to our legal system and suffer greatly and unnecessarily. Unfortunately, with the current anti-immigrant xenophobic policies and sentiments, which Shahani documents are not new--I was unaware of the 1996 laws and had forgotten that ICE was only formed after 2001--the struggles of a first generation immigrant family become almost insurmountable. Only through her advocacy, and she chronicles poignantly how that advocacy cost her in personal way, was the family able to overcome some of those obstacles. The relationship between Shahani and her father is especially poignant. Well written, thoughtful and thought provoking.
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Heartbreaking. A story that needs told. This is really an important book right now. 

Thanks to author,publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free,it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
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Here We Are is a compelling memoir about the author's family and the plight of undocumented immigrants. Shahani, a journalist, does a wonderful job exploring her relationships with her family and and how they change as she matures.
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