DUBLIN -- Twenty-four years ago, under a dark, stormy sky at a German refugee camp, author Atta Arghandiwal began to write his second and newest book, "Immigrant Success Planning: A Family Resource Guide."
Fleeing from Afghanistan, his homeland, after the Soviet Union's 1979-89 war there, Arghandiwal experienced the fears and frustrations of living in a foreign country. Instead of isolation, he chose organization: working with other refugee families to bridge communication gaps, establish sporting activities, share resources. Six months later, he began a new chapter in his life, immigrating to the United States with his wife and finding a job in the financial sector.
The Dublin resident worked his way from teller to senior vice president, mostly at American Savings Bank and at what is now JPMorgan Chase Bank. In 2012, he wrote "Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story," his memoir of life in Afghanistan -- before 30-plus years of war scarred the country -- and of coming to America. The debut book won the Independent Book Publishers Association's Benjamin Franklin Best First Book Award in 2013.
Arghandiwal's stride to success -- he's also the father of two children, one a high school senior headed to college on a soccer scholarship, the other an MBA student in Massachusetts at Babson College -- appears easy but wasn't. Understanding how to live in the country he calls "outstanding" and "unlike anywhere else in the world," was like maneuvering across an obstacle course while blindfolded. Perhaps because he attributes his achievements partially to good fortune, Arghandiwal wrote his (originally) 85,000-word guidebook to spare other immigrants the difficulties of adapting to a new country.
"I immigrated before the age of the Internet, so pulling together all this information took years," he said in an interview. "I wanted to put it all in one place."
Putting it in one place, a good luck book, required three years of writing; a co-author, Eileen Figure Sandlin; a switch from his first book's publisher to Influence Publishing, and the valuable input and forward contributed by his close friend, U.N. Ambassador Waheed Waheedullah.
Arghandiwal said Sandlin's experience writing guidebooks was particularly helpful when organizing the content. "My strength is providing the meat -- the tips that fit the immigrant community. She's able to put it all in context," he said. His publisher suggested adding information about Canada and the "Atta Lessons" at the end of each chapter. Both elements expand the book enormously: the former for obvious reasons; the latter providing intimate, personal anecdotes that soften the book's otherwise straightforward delivery.
Waheedullah's foreword describes the book as one that fills a "significant gap" between global organizations serving displaced people and local humanitarian operations. Arghandiwal said the book's purpose is to help immigrants learn how to find a job, own a home and contribute. "They won't need to rely on others to help them: they can find a way to be productive on their own," he said.
Logically laid out, "Immigrant Success Planning" begins with documentation needed upon entering the country. Simple explanations address critical issues about credit, banking, finding employment, buying a home, obtaining health care and insurance. Chapters on the United States' educational systems, entrepreneurial opportunities, travel and transportation deliver vital, easy-to-understand summaries but also the inside view of someone raised outside the system.
Americans might take for granted and even be jaded in their wariness about the Internet, politicians and civil liberties: a person who came from a totalitarian government is uniquely vulnerable amid America's freedoms. Without condescending, Arghandiwal lays out the facts and forewarnings.
A book with guides to government rules and regulations risks becoming rapidly outdated. For that reason, Arghandiwal avoids delving too far into details and instead a concisely formatted list of resources directs readers to appropriate centers for information. He chose print-on-demand and expects electronic sales to follow the pattern of his first book: 60 percent of its sales have been e-books. Arghandiwal said upgrades are simple with the online publishing platform and is considering offering Chinese-, Farsi-, Arabic- and Spanish-language editions.
"Immigrant Success Planning" and "Lost Decency" are being sold as companion books and are available together or individually at Amazon, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and iTunes. To learn more, visit http://www.attamoves.com.