The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This beautiful book is anchored with rich details, even as the people within struggle to find security. Individual stories (including Nayeri’s own) are told against the backdrop of the collective refugee experience. She describes the terror that prompts exodus, the indignity of receiving begrudging charity, and the agony of the eternal wait in camps. Each refugee’s journey is different, but all have faced appalling injustice and the brutal indifference of bureaucracy. In a time when nationalism has shamefully superseded compassion, The Ungrateful Refugee isn’t just important, it’s necessary. -Lauren

— From Fall Booknotes 2019

September 2019 Indie Next List

“At a time when some people aim to terrify us with stories about the intentions of those who seek our help, this book brings a timely voice to illustrate what drives people to endure monumental hardships in order to have a chance to reach safety. An engrossing and powerful book that reveals an infrequently heard perspective on the concept of charity, giving, and receiving, The Ungrateful Refugee makes us look at ourselves and our actions as well as those who receive our acts of ‘kindness.’”
— Becky Garcia, Malvern Books, Austin, TX

Winter 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List

“Now more than ever, perhaps, we need voices like those of Dina Nayeri. Combining moving memoir with clear-eyed reporting, Nayeri’s The Ungrateful Refugee is a beautiful and stark reminder of the complexity and humanity of the immigrant experience. It is urgent and important that we hear the stories of others, which often reveal even more about ourselves.”
— Susan Hans O'Connor, Penguin Bookshop, Sewickley, PA


A Finalist for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction

Nayeri combines her own experience with those of refugees she meets as an adult, telling their stories with tenderness and reverence." --The New York Times Book Review

Nayeri weaves her empowering personal story with those of the 'feared swarms' . . . Her family's escape from Isfahan to Oklahoma, which involved waiting in Dubai and Italy, is wildly fascinating . . . Using energetic prose, Nayeri is an excellent conduit for these heart-rending stories, eschewing judgment and employing care in threading the stories in with her own . . . This is a memoir laced with stimulus and plenty of heart at a time when the latter has grown elusive." --Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother and lived in the crumbling shell of an Italian hotel-turned-refugee camp. Eventually she was granted asylum in America. She settled in Oklahoma, then made her way to Princeton University. In this book, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives and taking us through the different stages of their journeys, from escape to asylum to resettlement. In these pages, a couple fall in love over the phone, and women gather to prepare the noodles that remind them of home. A closeted queer man tries to make his case truthfully as he seeks asylum, and a translator attempts to help new arrivals present their stories to officials.
Nayeri confronts notions like "the swarm," and, on the other hand, "good" immigrants. She calls attention to the harmful way in which Western governments privilege certain dangers over others. With surprising and provocative questions, The Ungrateful Refugee challenges us to rethink how we talk about the refugee crisis.

"A writer who confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience." --Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees

About the Author

DINA NAYERI was born in Iran during the revolution and arrived in America when she was ten years old. She is the winner of the UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts literature grant, as well as a finalist for the Rome Prize and a Granta New Voices Project pick. Nayeri is the author of two novels--Refuge and A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea--and her work has been translated into fourteen languages and published in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Granta, The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and many other publications. The Ungrateful Refugee is her first book of nonfiction. A graduate of Princeton, Harvard, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she lives in Paris, where she is a Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781948226424
ISBN-10: 1948226421
Publisher: Catapult
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2019
Pages: 368
Language: English