The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You

Dina Nayeri (Author)

Product Details

$26.00  $23.92
Publish Date
September 03, 2019
6.2 X 1.4 X 9.1 inches | 1.4 pounds

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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.


Praise for The Ungrateful Refugee

Finalist for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction
Finalist for the 2020 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year in Nonfiction
An American Booksellers Association Indie Next Selection
Bustle, 1 of 15 Books About Asylum & Immigration That Every Person in the United States Needs to Read

"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

"Ms. Nayeri's personal account is sure to be a powerful statement in the current political climate." --Rashida Tlaib, U.S. Congressional Representative, 13th District of Michigan

"Nayeri, the author of two novels including Refuge, uses her first work of nonfiction to remind readers of the pain and horrors refugees face before and long after their settlement. It is timely, as President Trump has made barring refugees from the United States a priority, and the Western world is plagued with a surge in nativism. Nayeri combines her own experience with those of refugees she meets as an adult, telling their stories with tenderness and reverence." --Nazila Fathi, The New York Times Book 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)

"With inventive, powerful prose, Nayeri demonstrates what should be obvious: that refugees give up everything in their native lands only when absolutely necessary--if they remain, they may face poverty, physical torture, or even death . . . A unique, deeply thought-out refugee saga perfect for our moment." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A moving, honest memoir about what it's like to be an immigrant." --New York Post, One of the Best Books of the Year

"An account of not only [Nayeri's] own story, going from the privileged daughter of educated professionals to a refugee living in an Italian camp to a fiction writer in Iowa City, but of other desperate asylum-seekers who are expected to perform gratefulness for every act of basic human decency. Why must refugees be good? What does 'good' or 'deserving' mean, anyway?" --Tomi Obaro, BuzzFeed, 1 of 33 Most Exciting Books Coming Out This Fall

"There has never been a better time to read The Ungrateful Refugee. Dina Nayeri writes of her own experiences as a refugee and of the experiences of a number of others to craft a nuanced portrait of immigration that steps beyond the rhetoric of 'invasion' and challenges the notion of the 'good' immigrant." --Cristina Arreola, Bustle, 1 of 35 New Books Out in September for the Cozy Days of Fall Ahead

"What Nayeri has done so well within this book is demonstrate the ways in which immigrants must constantly negotiate the most ordinary aspects of life, and prove over and over again that they deserve to have the same basic rights that so many of us take for granted. She does it in lucid, resonant prose that has been echoing around in my head for weeks now, allowing me to see the global problems we face through an intimate lens, reminding me the cost of neglecting the plights of so many other people. It's a powerful and important book." --Kristin Iversen, NYLON, 1 of the 34 Books You'll Want to Read This Fall

"A moving, honest memoir about what it's like to be an immigrant." --Mackenzie Dawson, New York Post, One of the Best Books of the Week

"Nayeri's masterful storytelling in The Ungrateful Refugee cuts into the marrow of a profoundly human experience. She brings readers past the boundary of personal space and safe distance into uncomfortably close proximity. Through personal stories, including her own, Nayeri invites us to sit in the despair, anxiety, restlessness, and--contemptuously enough, the pride--of people whose lives are separated from ours not by worth or merit but simply by circumstance." --Frances Nguyen, Electric Literature

"The Ungrateful Refugee argues that ungratefulness is one of many appropriate responses to the circumstances in which refugees find themselves, that there are as many reactions as there are people who wear the label of refugee at some point in their life. And it is a critique of a system that asks refugees and other immigrants to perform themselves in order to fit a narrow set of definitions in order to be granted the very least any country or person can offer--safety . . . The Ungrateful Refugee is the work of an author at the top of her game." --Jessica Goudeau, Guernica

"Nayeri describes fleeing Iran as a child and living in an Italian hotel before being granted asylum in America . . . An incredibly timely book." --Emily Temple, Literary Hub

"Blistering in its unequivocal critiques of the legal systems that keep refugees in limbo, yet strikingly layered and nuanced in its storytelling, The Ungrateful Refugee is timely, unsettling, compassionate and deeply compelling." --Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness

"Nayeri offers a searing, nuanced and complex account of her life as a refugee and of the experiences of other more recent refugees from Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. The stories are terrifying, disheartening, sometimes uplifting and definitely worth reading and meditating on . . . Nayeri is neither a journalist nor a polemicist. She's a storyteller who invites our moral engagement." --Alden Mudge, BookPage

"A fascinating book for readers interested in learning more about the experiences of refugees worldwide, and Nayeri expertly works in contextual information about refugees in the world today as she tells her own story." --Bookish, One of the Season's Best New Nonfiction

"Nayeri is a reminder that people, actual human beings, are constantly faced with their entire existences being reduced to political anecdotes. The Ungrateful Refugee also reminds us that we should stop treating immigrants, or any group of people, as though their humanity is something they must earn." --Katherine Tamola, Shondaland, 1 of 9 Reads You Won't Be Able to Put Down

"The Ungrateful Refugee is one the most urgently needed works of nonfiction of 2019. Dina Nayeri combines recollections of her family's fleeing from Iran in the '70s with reporting about refugees around the world today. Don't speak about the refugee crisis before you know the refugee experience, which Nayeri renders so powerfully here." --Elena Nicolaou, Refinery29, One of the Best Books of the Month

"Born in Iran during the revolution, Dina Nayeri understands the fear, uncertainty, and confusion of leaving the only place you've known for new and unrecognizable countries. Nayeri shares her own stories and those of others to help the reader examine immigration, migration, and the refugee crisis from a variety of often unheard perspectives." --Karla Strand, Ms.

"A work of astonishing, insistent importance . . . A book full of revelatory truths, moments where we are plunged deeply and painfully into the quotidian experience of the refugee." --Alex Preston, The Observer

"A thoughtful investigation combining a memoir of [Nayeri's] former life--which includes a dramatic departure from her home country and two years of adjustment before arrival and 'acceptance' in the US--and a collection of case studies interrogating what it means to have been, or to be, a refugee. Nayeri robustly challenges the perceived obligation on the displaced person to revoke or tone down their former identity; to assimilate, to be a 'good investment' for any country that has admitted them. It is a provocative work . . . This wide-ranging, reasoned book is no polemic: its observations are self-reflective, contemplative and significant." --Catherine Taylor, Financial Times

"Depending on your values, or which newspapers you read, refugees are all helpless victims or unwelcome hordes. And the tendency to speak in statistics is a failing of even the most sympathetic Europeans. That's where Dina Nayeri comes in. Her book, The Ungrateful Refugee, is a memoir-cum-dispatch from the front lines of displacement. She works hard to put names, faces, quirks and favourite recipes to the anonymous numbers we read about--or switch off from . . . Nayeri has found her place. In the lives and living quarters of refugees, using their 'orphan details' to humanise a crisis so often portrayed as a footnote in geopolitical upheaval." --Anoosh Chakelian, New Statesman

"[A] nuanced look at what it feels like to be a fully realized person reduced to the single word, 'refugee.'" --Sarah Murdoch, The Star (Toronto)

"Nayeri weaves her empowering personal story with those of the 'feared swarms, ' asylum-seekers in Greece and the Netherlands. Her family's escape from Isfahan to Oklahoma, which involved waiting in Dubai and Italy, is wildly fascinating, and even by today's standards it remains miraculous . . . 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." --Angela Ajayi, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

"A gallery of powerful portraits of the experiences of those fleeing persecution and war, and those who help and support them. This is not comfortable reading, but it is compelling. In moving, poetic prose Nayeri unravels this difficult subject, never dodging troubling questions." --Lynnda Wardle, Glasgow Review of Books

"Nayeri explores the plight of refugees through the prism of her own childhood escape from Iran in this provocative account . . . 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

"Evocative . . . Nayeri deftly explores the balance between truth and storytelling when it comes to the expectations of both the telling and the hearing of these accounts. She helps us see beyond a person's citizenship status to recognize their humanity, most affectingly questioning whether it's necessary to remove a person's dignity in order to help them. A much-needed exploration of the refugee experience; Nayeri's writing will be welcomed by a wide audience." --Library Journal

"Personal, powerful, and impassioned, The Ungrateful Refugee has the potential to open eyes." --Richard Z. Santos, Kirkus Reviews

"In spare and delightfully direct prose, Nayeri interrogates how and why we allow ourselves to demand proof of fear and gratitude from those seeking the most basic human dignity; why we persist in the fantasy that their dignity comes at the expense of our own. Long after closing the book, I'm haunted by the question she threads carefully underneath all the others: what keeps us from believing in each other?" --Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk

"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

"Dina Nayeri has written a vital book for our times. The Ungrateful Refugee gives voice to those whose stories are too often lost or suppressed. Braiding memoir, reportage, and essayism, Nayeri allows those fortunate enough never to have been stateless or displaced to glimpse something of the hardships and subtleties of refugee experience. Written with compassion, tenderness, and a burning anger, her book appears at the end of a decade in which division and dislocation have risen to a terrible pitch. It speaks powerfully from--and to--the heart. Please read it." --Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland

"A remarkable book, whose evocative stories are deftly woven into a powerful tapestry with lessons for us all. Anybody interested in the refugee experience will learn from Dina Nayeri's book. As for policymakers: The Ungrateful Refugee should be compulsory reading if they are to regain or retain a sense of humanity." --Steve Crawshaw, policy and advocacy director at Freedom from Torture