Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi. February 6, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781524717803. Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1030.
The hilarious, poignant, and true story of one teens’s experience growing up in America as an undocumented immigrant from the Middle East, perfect for fans of Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham’s books.
At thirteen, bright-eyed, straight-A student Sara Saedi uncovered a terrible family secret: she was breaking the law simply by living in the United States. Only two years old when her parents fled Iran, she didn’t learn of her undocumented status until her older sister wanted to apply for an after-school job, but couldn’t because she didn’t have a Social Security number.
Fear of deportation kept Sara up at night, but it didn’t keep her from being a teenager. She desperately wanted a green card, along with clear skin, her own car, and a boyfriend.
Americanized follows Sara’s progress toward getting her green card, but that’s only a portion of her experiences as an Iranian-“American” teenager. From discovering that her parents secretly divorced to facilitate her mother’s green card application to learning how to tame her unibrow, Sara pivots gracefully from the terrifying prospect that she might be kicked out of the country at any time to the almost-as-terrifying possibility that she might be the only one of her friends without a date to the prom. This moving, often hilarious story is for anyone who has ever shared either fear.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Clinical discussion, Clinical discussions of sex and menstruation
Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Imagine finding out when you’re almost 13 that you’re an undocumented immigrant and can be deported from the U.S. at any time. This is just one of the secrets that Saedi, now 37, reveals in this often funny and deeply moving memoir based on entries from her teenage diary. Born in 1980 in Iran during the Iranian Revolution, Sara fled to the U.S. with her family when she was two. She humorously relates stories of angst over her high-school crush, confusion over her birth date, idolization of her “perfect” older sister, annoyance at being the surrogate mother of her younger U.S.–born brother, zit and “skin-shaming” issues, hatred of her large Iranian nose, embarrassment over her unibrow, obsession with acting, experimentation with smoking and alcohol, prom date dilemmas, and incidents from her parents’ and grandparents’ difficult lives. Black-and-white photos are interspersed with intriguing chapter titles (“Sporting the Frida Kahlo,” “I Am the Product of Incest”), while, at the same time, the narrative offers a brief look at the history of Iran (pronounced E-ron, she emphasizes, not I-ran, as many Americans say). Her encouraging advice for undocumented immigrants is invaluable, honest, and heartfelt. This irresistible and timely memoir is hard to put down.
Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2017)
Saedi recounts her teen years growing up and coming of age in 1990s California while fearing deportation for herself and her undocumented family. Born in Iran, Saedi came to the United States at 2 with her secular family as “illegal aliens” fleeing the Iraq-Iran War. In Chapter 1 and with humor, candor, and accessibility, she breaks down historical and geopolitical facts about Iran and her family’s reason for leaving their home; in doing so, she debunks myths about Iran, its people, and Tehran—a city that looked less like Agrabah than New York City. Facing topics such as religion and tensions in the Middle East, handled with delicacy, Saedi asserts a fearless voice for Gen Xers and millennials. Saedi wields satire and hyperbole as she balances compelling points about world leaders and politicians with nostalgic references to Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no to drugs” campaign, celebrities, and music icons. Iranian women and families are depicted in all ways: religious, secular, strict, trusting, educated, independent, passionate, traditional, nontraditional. Zits, teenage angst, boy drama, drugs, alcohol, and sex are handled with humanity. No topic is off limits it seems, as she takes on illegal immigration protocols that bleed into today’s turbulent times, with mentions of DACA and the “Muslim ban.” Interspersed throughout are photographs, FAQs, and excerpts from the author’s diary from her teen years. With gumption, Saedi draws from her American-ness and Iranian-ness for a successful depiction of immigrant life in the U.S.: a must-read. (Memoir. 14-18)
About the Author
Sara Saedi was born in Tehran, Iran smack-dab in the middle of a war and an Islamic Revolution. She received a B.A. in Film and Mass Communications from the University of California, Berkeley and began her career as a creative executive for ABC Daytime. Since then she’s penned three TV movies for ABC Family and a pilot for the Disney Channel, won a Daytime Emmy for What If…, a web series she wrote for ABC, and worked as a staff writer on the FOX sitcom The Goodwin Games.
Her first novel for young adults, Never Ever, was published in 2016 and its sequel, The Lost Kids, will publish in spring 2018. Her memoir, Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card was released in February 2018.
She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and pug, where she writes for the hit CW show iZombie. Her website is www.sarasaediwriter.com
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