This Is What America Looks Like | Ilhan Omar

Summary of: This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman
By: Ilhan Omar


Discover the captivating journey of Ilhan Omar, a refugee who rose to become the first Somali-American Congresswoman in the United States. In this compelling summary of ‘This Is What America Looks Like,’ explore her early life growing up in war-torn Somalia, her experiences as a refugee in Kenya, and her family’s pursuit of the American dream. Witness Ilhan’s incredible growth and resilience as she adapts to life in the US, ultimately finding her place in politics and fighting for her beliefs. This inspiring story will provide you with valuable insights into the challenges refugees face and an understanding of the importance of diverse representation in politics.

Ilhan Omar: Surviving Childhood in War-Torn Somalia

Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American politician, had a tumultuous childhood marked by war and displacement. Raised in a family that valued gender equality and non-conformity, Ilhan’s early life was carefree until the outbreak of civil war in Somalia disrupted everything. Her family fled violence, moving across borders as refugees and facing disease and hunger. Despite the struggles, Ilhan endured and learned valuable lessons on survival and empathy that would shape her as a politician and person.

Ilhan’s Dream of a Better Future

Ilhan finds joy and sadness as a refugee in Kenya. Her father dreams of a better life in America. When their family secures a place for resettlement in Arlington, Virginia, they discover that the reality of America is different from what they imagined.

Ilhan’s experience as a refugee in Kenya was bittersweet. She had to learn to cope with death and loss as she witnessed people die every week in the camp. However, being surrounded by death made the community more united, and everyone would pitch in to help those in need. Ilhan had her share of joy in the camp, sneaking out to nearby villages to watch Bollywood movies with the children.

Despite the challenges, Ilhan’s father dreamed of a better future for their family. He wanted to resettle in America, where they could eventually become full citizens. The family secured an interview at a nearby refugee office, and to their delight, they were chosen to resettle in Arlington, Virginia. But America was not what they expected. During their overnight layover in New York, Ilhan was disappointed at the sight of the city’s dirtiness, which did not match what she had seen in the orientation video. However, her father reassured her that they would find their America.

Ilhan’s family’s experience demonstrates the resilience of refugees and their desire for a better life. Despite the odds and challenges, they were determined to pursue their dream in America. However, they also realized that the reality of America was different from their expectations. Ilhan’s story is a compelling reminder of the courage and determination that refugees exhibit in their quest for a better future.

Ilhan’s Journey to Leadership

Ilhan, a 12-year-old Somalian immigrant, moved to Virginia with her family, where she faced constant bullying, leading to fights and detention. However, her determination to learn English enabled her to become nearly fluent by the end of her first year. Her family then moved to Minneapolis, where she attended a diverse school and developed leadership skills. However, her independence caused issues at home, particularly when she fell in love with an older Somali boy.

Ilhan Omar’s Journey

Ilhan Omar navigates marriage, education, motherhood, and faith amidst turbulent times.

Ilhan Omar’s life took a different turn when she met Ahmed. They fell for each other, but dating was not an option in their community. So, they got married, and things looked promising initially. Ilhan’s faith became her anchor when her family faced tough times. Her father’s approval of her marriage came with a condition that she continues her education. Despite a lack of guidance and support, she enrolled in a two-year Associate’s Degree program at Mall of America.

The September 11 terrorist attacks shattered their life a few days into her college. The Muslim community faced the backlash, and the Omar family also felt it. Ilhan got pregnant around the same time, which added to their stress. Her daughter Isra was born amidst the US’s preparations to invade Iraq, a country that Ilhan believed would suffer from the illegal invasion.

The Mall of America program’s financial aid was insufficient for her growing family, and the school urged her to take out loans even though many of their classes were unaccredited. Ilhan’s workload and responsibilities were overwhelming, and she went days without eating, which made her severely underweight.

She needed a break, and so she visited her more conservative family branch in Sweden and resumed wearing the hijab, which she hadn’t worn in years. Wearing the hijab had always felt like a burden to her, but after this trip, she saw it as a symbol of her faith, something that anchors her and gives her strength.

In the end, Ilhan Omar’s journey highlights the grit and determination it takes to navigate challenging times while staying true to one’s values and faith.

Overcoming Adversities

Ilhan’s life spiraled into chaos following the 2008 financial crisis that highlighted the worthlessness of her two-year associate’s degree. She also realized she had been carrying the trauma of losing her mother and surviving a war-torn Somalia. Her relationship with her family changed, leading to divorce from Ahmed and an impulsive second marriage that also ended. However, Ilhan reconnected with herself and pursued an undergraduate degree to rebuild her life. She excelled in college and pursued a research project in Somalia, which helped her understand her father better and forgive him. Ilhan also reconciled with her family and rebuilt her marriage with Ahmed on a new foundation.

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