cover image Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares

Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares

Aarti Namdev Shahani. Celadon, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-20475-2

In this tragedy-tinged debut memoir, NPR technology correspondent Shahani discusses her father’s 1996 arrest for selling electronics to the Cali cartel of Colombia and the ways in which these events shaped Shahani’s life. Shahani’s family immigrated from India to New York City in 1981, where her father opened a wholesale electronics store and began selling such items as calculators and watches to customers who he later learned were cartel members. His arrest set in motion a legal nightmare that sent the author on a mission to prevent her father, who wasn’t a U.S. citizen, from being deported and to help other families in similar predicaments. Shahani discovers years after her father accepted a plea bargain and served eight months at Rikers Island that he may not have had to serve time at all had his lawyer worked harder to show that the case was thin. In a conversational tone, the book exposes the ugliness of the criminal justice system, which pressures defendants to take plea bargains. The author discusses becoming a journalist and building the kind of successful career her father never had and ends with a letter to her father, who eventually became a U.S. citizen and “whose ups and down taught me how the world really works.” This timely, bittersweet immigration story will resonate powerfully with readers. (Oct.)