The Ungrateful Refugee
In her first work of nonfiction, Dina Nayeri defies stereotypes and raises surprising questions about the immigrant experience. Here are the real human stories of what it is like to journey across borders in the hope of starting afresh.
What is it like to be a refugee? It is a question many of us do not give much thought to, and yet there are more than 25 million refugees in the world.
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.
"With inventive, powerful prose, Nayeri demonstrates what should be obvious: that refugees give up everything in their native lands only when absolutely necessary...A unique, deeply thought-out refugee saga perfect for our moment."
"Nayeri's book is compelling and powerfully told, a must-read for anyone who needs an insight into the common threads we all share, and a reminder of how important it is to keep them unbroken."