The Ungrateful Refugee: Book summary and reviews of The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

The Ungrateful Refugee

What Immigrants Never Tell You

by Dina Nayeri

The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri X
The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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" - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"This book's combination of personal narrative and collective refugee story is compelling, necessary, and deeply thought and felt. Writing with truth and beauty, Nayeri reckons with her own past as a refugee...This valuable account of refugee lives will grip readers' attention." - Booklist (starred review)

"Filled with evocative prose...Nayeri reveals the indignities exiles suffer as they dodge danger and shed their identities and souls while attempting to find safety. This thought-provoking narrative is a moving look at the current immigrant experience." - Publishers Weekly

"Dina Nayeri's powerful writing confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience." - Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees

"This is a humane and compelling book that seeks to make human those demonized by the media and governing bodies for so long. Nayeri is never sentimental, and her accounts of refugee lives, including her own, are unflinching, complex, provocative, and important." - Nikesh Shukla, author of The Good Immigrant

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Author Information

Dina Nayeri

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 London.

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