What is it like to be a refugee? It is a question many of us do not give much thought, and yet there are more than 25 million refugees in the world. To be a refugee is to grapple with your place in society, attempting to reconcile the life you have known with a new, unfamiliar home. All this while bearing the burden of gratitude in your host nation: the expectation that you should be forever thankful for the space you have been allowed. 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. Now, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with those of other asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives and taking us through the 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. With surprising and provocative questions, The Ungrateful Refugee recalibrates the conversation around the refugee experience. Here are the real human stories of what it is like to be forced to flee your home, and to journey across borders in the hope of starting afresh.
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 to have never been stateless or displaced to glimpse something of the hardships and subtleties of the 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 This is a humane and compelling book that seeks to make human those demonised 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 A work of astonishing, insistent importance . . . This is a book full of revelatory truths, moments where we are plunged deeply and painfully into the quotidian experience of the refugee * * Observer * * Dina Nayeri's powerful writing confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience -- VIET THANH NGUYEN A thoughtful investigation . . . This wide-ranging, reasoned book is no polemic: its observations are self-reflective, contemplative and significant * * Financial Times * * 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 Director, Freedom from Torture, former London Director of Human Rights Watch Cogent and persuasive . . . provoking and enlightening * * Bookmunch * *