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

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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

Description


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.

Praise For…


Praise for The Ungrateful Refugee

Finalist for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year in Nonfiction
An American Booksellers Association Indie Next Selection


"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

"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 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

"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

"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

"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)


Product Details
ISBN: 9781646220212
ISBN-10: 1646220218
Publisher: Catapult
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020
Pages: 368
Language: English