This book is dedicated to my parents who made the utmost sacrifice and supported me in my journey to the United States at the age of 15. Without my two loving parents I would not be where I am today; a tenured High School History Teacher working in the most impoverished neighborhood in New York City, the South Bronx, where I help students that dropped out of high school achieve their goal and receive a high school diploma. The reason that I feel like I am in the right place for my job is because just like these “lost” students, I was going through a tough transition myself as I left my impoverished 3rd world country and decided to embark on a journey by myself across the ocean for a better opportunity. The toughest students are sometimes the best ones because they either have a goal in mind and they want to succeed, or they are not ready and are very honest with themselves and their teacher and decided that education is not in their cards at that moment of time. I feel that these students are marginalized from society because of their socioeconomic status and it is important that they realize that there is light at the end of tunnel, just like for me my parents decided to leave their pretty cushy jobs to try and support me and my brother in the United States. That is why I decided to publish this book, to show that in each of one there is hope for a better future and we must take in account that life will not always be easy and will throw unexpected moments our way.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When I was 15, I faced my own Mount Everest when I was granted a visitor’s visa to play basketball at the National Basketball Youth Tournament in Chicago. I thought about the pros and cons many times, and I made the decision to embark on a new journey to a whole new country. Despite all the challenges that I faced, I never gave up and kept going. I am that person. Once I say I will do something, it will happen.
Back in 2001, I wrote an article in my junior year in high school and won 2nd place in the contest by the PAL, Police Athletic League, named Stories my Grandparents told me.
I was also featured in Who’s Who Among American High School Students and the National Dean’s List in college.
Now, I put that perseverance to work as a History Teacher in the poorest school district in New York State, South Bronx and have just published a book called Immigrant Life that details life prior to the United States and the years here.
I remember this one time in Geography class back in Albania. I had completely spaced out and started looking outside the window. At that moment of time, I thought of what life would be like in a new country with different people and traditions.
In 1996, my country started getting engulfed in what are known as pyramidal schemes. This was a simple transaction and it involved giving money to a person that represented the company and a month later you would get your money back with 50% interest. Practically all Albanians took their savings, and some sold their houses and put their money in these schemes. Even my parents did the same and lost quite a bit of money in these schemes. It took these folks many years to recover from this financial meltdown and some never regained their financial foothold in the economic system. I heard of horror stories of people committing suicide and jumping off balconies because they had lost everything and were going through these uncomfortable and uncertain times.
In 1998, there was a big contingent of religious people that came from Saudi Arabia. They were mostly Muslim missionaries that preached Islam. I suppose they chose Albania given how poor of a county it was. These folks were relentless, and they worked day and night to try to convince Albanians that they should all convert to Islam. However, they did not get the results that they wanted because Albania was secular for fifty years under the communist regime and its people were not entirely religious. I remember growing up we celebrated all the different religious holidays from Easter to Christmas and New Year’s. I was not brought up religious, so it did not occur to me that these folks were very serious about their mission.
My first encounter with them happened at my school lunch break where I was approached by three of them. They gave them two notebooks and a pen and told me that I would get more gifts if I joined their religion. I remember going home that day and leaving the gifts in the apartment. The next day they all approached me as I was leaving school and asked me where the gifts were. I told them I left them home because they were gifts. After inquiring whether I would join their religion, they started to threaten me because I told them I was not interested. A block away from my apartment building they finally caught up to me and started beating me with their fists. Thank goodness for my 5th floor neighbor who saw me and came to intervene because otherwise I would have ended up in the hospital.
A few days later, my dad woke up earlier than his routine and found an explosive right outside the door. He worked for the government so it was easy for him to dismantle the dynamite.
However, this was not the end of it. A week later we were away from the apartment and came home and found out that something had exploded by our doorstep. The neighbor said that he saw a bunch of bearded guys at our doorstep and when they left, a big blast was heard. He opened his door, and the material must have exploded leaving the front door in shambles. I remember dad spending a lot of money buying one of those heavy-duty security doors that had three heavy locks in them.
This was a harrowing event that shook me to the core. I was not sure I wanted to stay there anymore. Fearful for my life all I kept thinking about was how to escape my gloomy reality and leave everything behind. At school all I kept thinking was of a way to leave the country and my prayers were answered. My basketball team was invited to a basketball tournament in Chicago and all I had to do was pass the immigration interview at the US Embassy.
The date was July 3rd (if I am not mistaken). All ten of us went to the embassy to see if we could get visas to travel to the states. Out of ten players, only half the team had their visas approved. I was one of the lucky five! My father could not believe his eyes when I told him the news. He has tears in his eyes and choked up when I told him I was determined to go. All he kept saying was that I was too young for such a journey, but I did not budge. Three weeks later, I was on a plane to Chicago and never looked back ever since.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Buy Immigrant Life Print Edition at Amazon
Buy Immigrant Life Print Edition at Barnes and Noble
Have you read this book? Tell us what you thought! All information was provided by the author and not edited by us. This is so you get to know the author better.