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Journalist, author Aarti Shahani reflects on family, immigration and career with Essex High students

a woman smiles and looks into a computer web cam while sitting in a room, while behind her are pictures on the wall and a bookshelf full of books
VPR/Vermont PBS
Aarti Shahani spoke with "Vermont Edition" co-host Mikaela Lefrak via Zoom before an audience of more than a hundred students from Essex High School's Global Leadership Program.

Before Aarti Shahani became an award-winning journalist and author, she and her family were immigrants trying to make their way in New York City. This hour, Vermont Edition features host Mikaela Lefrak's interview with Shahani recorded live on Zoom in early February, with an audience of students from Essex High School.

You might recognize the name Aarti Shahani as an award-winning tech journalist for NPR. She's also the host of the podcast Art of Power, where she’s interviewed celebrities and leaders including President Barack Obama.

Shahani is also an immigrant from Morocco, with family roots in Pakistan and India. In the 1980s, when she was a young child, her family moved to Flushing, Queens in New York City. They overstayed their temporary visas to try to achieve the American dream. Shahani’s father managed to open a small electronics shop on Broadway, and Shahani earned a scholarship to a prestigious Manhattan prep school.

But everything changed when her father was arrested and sent to prison for mistakenly selling merchandise to the notorious Cali drug cartel. Shahani took a year off of college to fight for his release and keep him from deportation.

Shahani documents her family’s story in her memoir Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares.

In early February, Shahani was invited to discuss her memoir and share her experiences with about 100 students from Essex High School’s Global Leadership Program. Vermont Edition's Mikaela Lefrak led the interview with Shahani over Zoom, and later in the conversation, GLP students asked questions of their own.

Broadcast on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet us @vermontedition.

Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.