Sara Saedi thought hormonal acne and microscopic boobs were her biggest problems of her 8th-grade existence in 1993 until she discovered that she was an “illegal alien” (the more common and politically correct term undocumented immigrant was yet to enter her vocabulary) born in Iran. In an effort to flee a war-torn country that was becoming less tolerant of basic freedoms, Saedi’s parents hatched a plan to escape to the United States with 2-year-old Saedi and her older sister, Samira, in tow. In her new memoir, Americanized, Saedi chronicles her 18-year process to obtain a green card.
With a constant threat of being deported back to Iran for even the slightest infraction, Saedi’s narrative should be a tale of despair mired in endless paperwork. Instead, her irreverent, self-deprecating humor focuses on the woes shared by most American teens: bad skin, sexuality, body image hang-ups and the perfect prom date. Saedi’s commentary on the time period, from VCRs to landline phones, adds to the wit. Saedi balances her teenage perspective, complemented with entries from her actual diary from the time, with narration from the more mature, self-assured woman she’s become as a result of those experiences.
Through both good and bad times, Saedi recognizes the importance of family and maintaining her Iranian identity as she increasingly becomes more “American.” As she weaves in facts and observations about Iranian culture, she’s also not afraid to speak up about the current political climate regarding immigrants and debunk many myths (undocumented immigrants do pay taxes!). Readers will come away laughing yet pondering what it means to be an immigrant today.
By Sara Saedi