96 pages • 3 hours readSara Saedi
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Americanized: Rebel without a Green Card, published in 2018 by Sara Saedi, is a memoir about Saedi’s experiences growing up in California as an undocumented immigrant from Iran. Saedi’s family immigrated to the United States in 1982, and the book recounts her family’s 18-year struggle to receive permanent residency in the US. Lauded for its humorous writing style, Americanized nonetheless addresses weighty and politically sensitive topics like Iran’s history, the intricacies of immigration, and traditional gender roles. It blends Saedi’s coming-of-age story with sociological commentary that reveals the absurdity and, oftentimes, pain of immigration journeys in contemporary America. Americanized is currently in development to become a tv series from Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine production company and ABC Studios.
Saedi was born in Tehran, Iran, during an Islamic Revolution. In addition to her memoir, she is also the writer of numerous TV movies and web series (for one of which she won a Daytime Emmy) and the author of a young adult novel.
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As a teenager, Saedi discovers a truth that will become the main conflict of the book: Her family does not have the legal right to reside permanently in the United States. This discovery disrupts Saedi’s sense of belonging in America. Thereafter, she fears immigration officials will deport her family back to Iran, a country that she has not lived in since the age of two. Her family fled Iran’s political turmoil in 1982 and entered the US on visitor’s visas. At that time, her parents applied for political asylum but later learned their application was lost. They then applied for an adjustment of status, a convoluted legal process that, while ultimately granting them green cards, took another 15 years to receive approval. In the interim, Saedi’s parents enacted a series of strategies to expediate the process—strategies that required them to sacrifice their marriage and home so their children could have a better future in the United States.
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Saedi’s immigration story drives the plot of the book, but it is not the only narrative, as her memoir—written from the perspective of a precocious teenager—also addresses familial relationships, friendships, and romantic attachments. Whereas Saedi’s family and friends are a source of strength and stability in her life, her romantic attachments are not. These unrequited crushes cause Saedi immense anguish, often leading to despairing, albeit entertaining, entries in her diary. Another source of distress for Saedi is her physical appearance, particularly her facial acne, which undermines her sense of self-worth. As the book progresses, however, Saedi’s confidence grows, and she learns to value her appearance and unique background.
While much of Americanized is about growing up in America, Saedi also reconstructs her family history to show the import of her Iranian heritage and its imprint on her identity—something she becomes more appreciative of as she matures into a young adult. As such, several of the book chapters are situated in Iran, detailing its political and social history through the biographical stories of Saedi’s parents and grandparents. Interspersed in the narrative, Saedi includes inserts or “Frequently Asked Questions” that explain Iranian cultural practices and norms. With this contextualization, Saedi counters popular misconceptions and stereotypes about Iranians and the Middle East more generally.
Americanized is an informative and engaging memoir that, in its documentation of the Saedis’s immigration journey, calls for greater awareness and sensitivity toward immigrant groups and their struggles to gain legal residence and social acceptance in the United States.